Is social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram your district’s friend or foe? The correct answer is YES.
It is your friend when it is used to build community engagement and support, share good news, and foster communication. It is your foe when it is used to foster inappropriate relationships and share harmful or false information.
Jay Bequette, General Counsel for the Arkansas School Boards Association believes many people are getting worse instead of better at using social media. In an article in ASBA’s “Report Card”, Bequette says, “In the last 5 years, probably half of the employee discipline cases with which I have been involved have related to inappropriate use of social media.” He lists the following rules to abide by to make social media your friend:
- School policies should strongly encourage educators to maintain professional relationships with students both inside and outside of the classroom. Alachua County’s Policy 3213.01 on Use of Social Networking Websites or Blogs begins with, “The Board believes that the personal use of social networking sites or blogs by District staff has the potential of creating risks that could affect their professional career. It is important that District staff conduct themselves in such a way that the use of such sites does not adversely affect their position with the District.”
- Know what is protected and what is not. When it comes to educators, the First Amendment protects speech regarding “matters of public concern” that does not disrupt the school’s operations. What is not protected are posts about private concerns such as criticisms of colleagues or anything to do with individual students.
- Electronic communications between educators and students should always be transparent, accessible and professional . In other words, Bequette suggests that communications maintain openness, visibility, and accountability; consider all electronic communications to be a matter of record and use correct grammar and tone.
- 4. Before hitting “send”, taking a photo or allowing one to be taken, “liking” something on Facebook, or forwarding a joke, ask yourself two questions. First, how would you feel if what you just did was published on the front page of your local newspaper? And second, what would your mother say if she knew? This rule shouldn’t apply to just educators but to all users of social media.
Bequette’s Quick List of Do’s and Don’ts for Educators.
- Post positive comments.
- Connect with colleagues with whom you feel safe.
- Think twice about connecting with parents.
- Control privacy settings.
- Be careful about posting photos of others.
- Disconnect from negativity and negative Facebook “friends”.
- Show what you are proud of.
- Don’t follow students on Facebook.
- Don’t comment on students’ status updates.
- Don’t drink and tweet or post.
- Don’t post party pictures or beach pictures on social media.
- Don’t post during work hours.
Social media is the way the world works now. Don’t allow the pitfalls to keep your district from taking advantage of the benefits of communicating through social media. Be smart. Social media can be your friend.
Taken from ASBA’s “Report Card” September 2015
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