School districts have found themselves in a challenging position over the past several years regarding social media. It often makes school attorneys nervous. Administration, too. The issue is trying to regulate the medium. As a district administrator, I get the challenge. We have certain responsibilities for things like eDiscovery and litigation holds. No fun for anyone who has been part of such an exercise. If you’ve never had the chance to understand what challenges those pose for schools, read this.
I believe, however, that many districts end up taking a hyper-conservative stance on this issue. Social media, when used well, can prove an excellent communication, and even learning tool. Districts concerned about their staff using the service can satisfy the eDiscovery requirement by using a service like this or this.
District also get very nervous about all the “what if” scenarios when thinking about staff, students, and parents interacting online. I’ve talked about it before, but I’ll say it again, interactions between teachers, students, and parents are paramount to the profession. We should seek out all viable options to make these interactions as effective as possible. Districts shouldn’t enact policy that precludes the use of social media. Just be smart, and set policy that reinforces the policy already in place regarding professional practice and behaviors. I’m pretty proud of what our board adopted last year. I think something like this is a great approach.
This past week, we sent out an email to our staff inviting them to use social media and reminding them about guidelines that can help them as they consider using social media in their practice. The letter is below. It’s encouraging to hear the positive reports and see the links from teachers using the medium starting to roll in.
We’ve had a number of staff inquire about the possibility of utilizing social media to increase communications within the classroom. We welcome you to make use of these effective communications tools, and we’d like to help you successfully implement their use in your classroom with the following guidelines.
The board of education passed policy specifically related to social media last spring. You can read the policy here. The policy essentially reminds staff to keep all interactions between students and parents professional, public, and appropriate. All of the current policy regarding teacher interactions and professional behavior apply when utilizing social media.
Also, if you post any photos of students, please check that they have a media release on file, and do not use their last names associated with their photos. Please read the entire policy to get a complete understanding of the expectations for the use of social media as a learning and communications tool.
If you are using Facebook, please set up a specific fan page for your classroom that parents or students will utilize for communications. Inform your building principal and send me a link to your page, so we can provide you with any support needed.
We encourage you to utilize the disclaimer language found on the district’s Facebook page to inform your audience that you will be actively monitoring and moderating any and all postings on your page. You can find the language here.
Inform an administrator immediately if any inappropriate interactions take place on your site. We will help support and guide you through the proper response to any interaction that is in question.
We also encourage you to connect with others both inside and outside of the district using Twitter. To find out more about the district’s use of Twitter, including a listing of staff currently utilizing the service, click here.
We also welcome you to view our video about Twitter in D123 to find out more about how it all works. https://vimeo.com/36647045
Please feel free to let me know if you have any additional questions about social media and its use in our district. We plan to offer additional educational opportunities throughout this school year to help you better understand and utilize social media with your students and as a communications tool for parents.