How to create K12 social media policy

A quick resource guide to crafting K12 school district policies for Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and more.
By: | February 11, 2019
A quick resource guide to crafting K12 school district policies for Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and more.

Developing a strong and well-balanced social media policy requires considerable time and effort. The policy must be flexible enough to accommodate new tech trends—such as anonymous messaging apps and livestreaming—yet thorough and specific enough to address a multitude of potentially troublesome scenarios involving students, faculty and staff.

 

  1. Districts large enough to have a communications director on staff often find that person is the logical leader of social media policy planning.
  • They partner with superintendents to bring stakeholders together, consult with legal counsel and present policy recommendations to school boards for approval.
  • Communications directors also should partner with district technology leaders to create cultures that leverage social media and enforce policies on district networks.
  • Districts should write policies that empower educators to facilitate learning by avoiding a restrictive and punitive tone.
  • Protecting student privacy is paramount, but using social media as a contemporary communication tool is also very important.

 

  1. District leaders need to focus on behavior, not technology, and craft policies to establish best practices that work for all social media platforms and will easily accommodate new platforms.
  • As new social media applications appear, each should be examined for its merits.
  • Once a policy is created, it needs to be accessible to all faculty and staff.
  • Districts have to be clear in determining when it is inappropriate for educators to speak on behalf of the district on social media platforms.

 

  1. Districts need to guard against overreaching when monitoring and regulating off-campus speech and behavior, such as when students participate in illegal activities.
  • The legal standard for taking action is when the behavior disrupts the school environment in a material and substantial way. For example, a good social media policy makes it clear that even when cyberbullying takes place off-campus, the district will respond if the acts create a hostile environment at school.
  • When administrators overreach, they risk punishing a student for minor incidents—and getting into trouble themselves.
  • Rather than responding with a heavy hand, use off-campus incidents as a learning opportunity.

 

  1. District policies should include expectations and guidelines for teachers’ use of personal social media accounts, both in projects with students and in their lives outside of school.
  • Some teachers use personal accounts to share classroom activities, although it ultimately may be safer to create a specific public account and have students follow that.
  • Because they are government employees and serve as role models for younger students, public school teachers may be held to a higher standard.
  • Courts have ruled that schools’ ability to discipline teachers for off-campus conduct can be defined by the local community, so what may be acceptable in one region may not be in another.
  • Ultimately, teachers must take care in connecting with students on social media, and should not send permission-based friend or follower requests to student
  • If employees do accept friend or follower requests from students, they need  to accept all such requests and not selectively limit their interactions to those who could be perceived as a few preferred individuals.
  • A little common sense goes a long way—if a teacher wouldn’t say something to a parent sitting right in front of them, then they shouldn’t say it on social media.

 


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