So often we read articles about how students’ social media posts can have negative consequences. We’ve read about students who lost academic and athletic scholarships due to an inappropriate Facebook post. We’ve heard about students getting suspended – or expelled – for tweeting a “joke” about a school safety matter. However, not much is said about EDUCATORS who forget to think before they post.
Many assume students misuse social media because of their immaturity, yet teachers – adults who are supposed to mentor our students – also misuse social media. Social media is just as new to teachers as it is to students so don’t forget to provide them with some training around social media appropriateness, too.
For example, the violence that rocked the city of Ferguson, MO last year was a huge topic nationwide – especially on social media. However, when a high school teacher in Duncanville Independent School District in TX decided to tweet about these tragic events using profane and racist language, she must not have realized how this tweet would impact her future as an educator. The teacher was fired for her misconduct. NEA posted these other examples of inappropriate social media posts by teachers.
While posting inappropriately on social media or any online platform should be a concern for teachers, they also need to keep in mind student privacy because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). In brief terms, FERPA was created to give students access to their education records, request amendments to said records and to give them some control over what information on those records is disclosed. The type of information FERPA typically protects are student grades, class lists and schedules, disciplinary records and financial aid information. Most educators would agree that revealing this information to anyone other than the educator is unethical, yet some teachers fail to post and tweet appropriately.
The Iowa Department of Education made some recommendations for teachers who use social media on their own time.
- Limit student access to your social media pages. The Iowa DOE recommends prohibiting student access to any personal social media account that is not maintained solely for instructional purposes.
- Never post about students or colleagues.
- Never post images of students.
- If you’re using a social media page for instructional purposes, keep school administrators and parents informed of your use. Make sure at least one other school official has access to the page and keep up a strictly professional relationship with students on the page.
- Do not request to friend or follow a student and deny all requests from student unless the page is used for instructional use.
- Monitor your pages regularly and remove postings that are inappropriate.
- Google yourself to find out what others see. If you don’t like what comes up, fix it!
- Do not access your pages or other non-school sites using school equipment, time, or other resources.
- Administrators should make sure to discuss these policies with your teachers and other staff.
In this post, we talk extensively about what you, as an educator, should not do on social media, but what should you do if you are on the receiving end of something inappropriate? You might think it was a joke or something and brush it off, however, the appropriate course of action is to involve an administrator immediately. This will protect you if, for some reason, the inappropriate post comes out in the future and people take it out of context or question you about it after the fact.
Does your district have a formal social media policy for teachers? We’d love for you to share some of it. Share what your district does to make sure staff thinks before they post on our Facebook or Twitter.