- In a day of evolving trends and technology, school districts need to craft a well-balanced policy that empowers staff and students to take advantage of social media as a communication tool, yet guards against uses which can create trouble down the line, District Administration advises.
- A communications director, if available, is the logical person to lead social media planning teams; however, they need to include input from legal advisers, district technology leaders, teachers, students, parents and other community stakeholders before presenting a plan to the school board for their input and approval.
- Once a social media policy is established, it needs to have high visibility with faculty, staff and students so that everyone is aware of the policy, its limits, and its consequences.
Within the past week, school officials at Ridgewood Public Schools in New Jersey reported that social media had fueled fights at their school because of the spread of “misinformation and falsehoods.” In 2014, racist photos that students posted on Instagram over Thanksgiving break drew unwanted national attention to a school district in North Carolina. Other school districts have faced challenges because of policies regarding student access to teacher social media accounts.
Social media has created multiple challenges for school districts, but like it or not, social media is here to stay and offers great advantages in terms of communicating a school district’s vision and story in addition to providing an engaging way to disseminate information. However, school districts need to have a good social media policy in place or may need to look at updating the policy they already have in light of the creation of new platforms and technologies. While some sources can suggest guidelines for such policies, administrators walk a narrow line between protecting schools from the dangers of social media without infringing on rights to free speech.
Teachers, especially, need to tread carefully when it comes to social media. Negative or disparaging comments about students, even in vague terms, can have a negative effect on their ability to serve in the classroom. And in June, Facebook photos of a scantily-clad charter school teacher went viral when she was accused of having sex with several students at the school. Though speech is free, it still has consequences. Social media offers a window to the world and, for better or worse, the world is peering through that window.