Compromised social media presents security, legal concerns for schools, districts
- With more schools and districts embracing social media platforms like Twitter, Education Week offers a pair of cautionary tales from Florida and Nevada on the cybersecurity and legal pitfalls administrators could face.
- The stories of Foothill High School (NV) and the St. Lucie Public Schools (FL) both highlight the need for strong, confidential passwords and the use of two-factor authentication on all social media accounts — in addition to being aware of the difficulty administrators could have in reaching Twitter to have troubling content removed in the event of a breach.
- Additionally, lawyer Bradley Shear told the publication that the Clark County School District's threat that "any student found to be involved in sharing or retweeting" content from Foothill High's compromised account "could face disciplinary action" rang hollow, as there is "no legal basis whatsoever to discipline students based on sharing digital content from the school district's own accounts, regardless of the situation."
School or district social media accounts can offer administrators a valuable opportunity to keep the local community better informed of what students are doing, as well as any challenges that may exist. But weak security can also make them a target for malicious or mischievous students or outside entities. Passwords for these accounts must be taken as seriously as those for any other platform with sensitive information that could be compromised. A strong password and two-factor authentication — in which a phone tied to the account, for example, would receive a text with an additional code during the login process — are a must.
And the legal hurdles are well worth noting, as well, since the waters around what students share on platforms outside of school is still murky. As Shear told Education Week, the district has no way of knowing with any certainty that it was actually the student sharing the content on their account, and it also raises questions of other situations in which a school would discipline students for social media postings made outside of the school, making it best for the school or district to avoid a lawsuit it would lose.
Given these concerns, schools or districts not already on social media should heavily consider the pros and cons of doing so when crafting their strategy. And those that have already taken the plunge should revisit their security measures to ensure everything is as tight as possible to try and avoid scenarios like those at Foothill High and in St. Lucie.
- Education Week Hacked Twitter Accounts a New Headache for Schools
Follow Roger Riddell on Twitter