What do you think of this proposed social media policy for school employees? (Part 1)

woman with word 'silence' taped over her mouth

A local school district here in Iowa is proposing the social media policy below for its employees. I have multiple concerns about it but am curious how others feel. What do you think is okay? What do you think is troublesome?

The school board will take another look at this policy in a few weeks, so any input that you can provide would be most welcome. I’ve given each item a letter for easy reference (e.g., E, H, X). Thanks!

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SCHOOL DISTRICT EMPLOYEE SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY

1. Expectations for the use of personal social media

District staff should:

  1. Refrain from accepting current school district students as “friends” on personal social networking sites.
  2. Refrain from providing personal contact information to students.
  3. Be aware that people classified as “friends” have the ability to download and share your information with others.
  4. Remember that once something is posted to a social networking site, it may remain available online even if you think it is removed, and it may be far-reaching.
  5. Set and maintain social networking privacy settings at the most restrictive level.
  6. Not use a social networking site to discuss students or employees.
  7. Not post images that include students.

2. Expectations for the use of educational networking sites

District staff must:

  1. Notify your supervisor about the use of any educational network and discuss with your supervisor the need for notification to parents and other staff.
  2. Use district-supported networking tools when available.
  3. Be aware that all online communications are stores and can be monitored.
  4. Have a clear statement of purpose and outcomes for the use of the networking tool.
  5. Establish a code of conduct for all network participants.
  6. Not post images that include a student who does not have permission from a parent to have his/her image displayed.
  7. Pay close attention to the site’s security settings and allow only approved participants access to the site.

3. Expectations for all networking sites

District employees should:

  1. Not submit or post confidential or protected information about the district, its students, alumni or employees. You should assume that most information about a student is protected from disclosure by both federal law (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and state law (Iowa Code Section 22.7(1)). Disclosures of confidential or protected information may result in liability for invasion of privacy or defamation.
  2. Report, as required by law, any information found on a social networking site that falls under the mandatory reporting guidelines.
  3. Not use commentary or post pictures or video deemed to be defamatory, obscene, profane, or which promotes, fosters or perpetuates illegal discrimination of any kind. Exercise caution with regards to exaggeration, colorful language, guesswork, copyrighted materials, legal conclusions and derogatory remarks or characterizations.
  4. Not identify yourself as a representative of or spokesperson for the district, unless you have been approved to do so by the superintendent or the communications coordinator. This includes using school logos, mascots, photographs or other such graphic representations or images associated with the district.
  5. Not create an alias, false or anonymous identity on any social media.
  6. Consider whether a particular posting puts your professional reputation and effectiveness as a district employee at risk.
  7. Be cautious of security risks when using applications that work with the social networking site. (Examples of these sites are calendar programs and games).
  8. Run updated malware protection to avoid infections of spyware and adware that social networking sites might place on your personal devices (a computer or other device not issued by the school district).
  9. Be alert to the possibility of phishing scams that arrive by email or on your social networking site.
  10. Anyone who wishes to establish a social media account for specific school district offices, initiatives, schools or programs must first contact the communications coordinator. Social media may be used for school-related purposes only with the approval of the communications coordinator. If you have questions, would like to start a social media initiative on behalf of a district entity, or have content you would like posted to the district’s Facebook page, please contact the district communications coordinator.

53 Responses to “What do you think of this proposed social media policy for school employees? (Part 1)”

  1. Hey Scott,
    In addition to your thoughts from the ‘what’s best for teaching & learning’ perspective, could you also weigh in on the legal side of this and other social media policies?

    Thanks!

  2. Why don’t they throw in the kitchen sink, too? There is too much here that has nothing to do with social media – watch out for this, watch out for that.

    What is their objective? Keeping kids safe and info about them private? Keeping district “safe” from lawsuits? Hard to find that in here. They should start from their objectives. And start over.

    I love S – not create an alias. But that’s the perfect way to keep your Facebook account really private so students/parents can’t find it.

    Just one example of dozens of short-sighted knee-jerk reactions seen here.

    • Seriously, S is ridiculous. And good point.

      Trying to protect themselves from lawsuits? I see a lawsuit written all over this and taken to the Supreme Court. Blatant infringements of our 1st Amendment rights…

  3. Refrain from accepting current school district students as “friends” on personal social networking sites.
    1.A may be most troubling of them all right at the start. This would be similar to requiring teachers and staff to never greet any student while out in the community. 13 minutes ago – Remove
    Refrain from providing personal contact information to students.
    1.B 10 minutes ago – Remove
    The nice thing about personal information is that it is personal and can be given to anyone a person chooses. This policy would essentially turn ones personal information into publicly owned information and thereby making it not personal any longer. 11 minutes ago – Remove
    Be aware that people classified as “friends” have the ability to download and share your information with others.
    Remember that once something is posted to a social networking site, it may remain available online even if you think it is removed, and it may be far-reaching.
    1.C&D: These don’t sound like policy points at all. 11 minutes ago – Remove
    Set and maintain social networking privacy settings at the most restrictive level.
    1.E – Unless this is referring to a profile built by and exclusively for the school itself, this is infringing upon personal social networking prerogative. 9 minutes ago – Remove
    Not use a social networking site to discuss students or employees.
    1.F – Here is a classic case of trying to rein in free speech. 8 minutes ago – Remove
    Not post images that include students.
    This is about the most reasonable one here, but there should be an addition to it explaining unless one has their written consent. 7 minutes ago – Remove
    2. Expectations for the use of educational networking sites
    I would only add that these items look like training points and objectives more than they look like good policy. 4 minutes ago – Remove
    Sections 2. and 3. actually seem rather rational compared to the outlandish section 1.

    • –Refrain from accepting current school district students as “friends” on personal social networking sites.

      1.A may be most troubling of them all right at the start. This would be similar to requiring teachers and staff to never greet any student while out in the community.

      –Refrain from providing personal contact information to students.

      1.B The nice thing about personal information is that it is personal and can be given to anyone a person chooses. This policy would essentially turn ones personal information into publicly owned information and thereby making it not personal any longer.

      –Be aware that people classified as “friends” have the ability to download and share your information with others.
      –Remember that once something is posted to a social networking site, it may remain available online even if you think it is removed, and it may be far-reaching.

      1.C&D: These don’t sound like policy points at all.

      –Set and maintain social networking privacy settings at the most restrictive level.

      1.E – Unless this is referring to a profile built by and exclusively for the school itself, this is infringing upon personal social networking prerogative.

      –Not use a social networking site to discuss students or employees.

      1.F – Here is a classic case of trying to rein in free speech. 8 minutes ago – Remove

      –Not post images that include students.

      1.G This is about the most reasonable one here, but there should be an addition to it explaining unless one has their written consent.

      — would only add that these items look like training points and objectives more than they look like good policy.

      Sections 2. and 3. actually seem rather rational compared to the outlandish section 1.

  4. Some of these are just common sense (e.g. Q and T) that I would think the district put on paper just so they could say they did it.

    On the whole though, I think the policy sees social media as something to be avoided rather than just another tool that can be used for either good or bad.

    For example, I actually wrote a post on my company’s blog about how to use Facebook groups without friending any students. You can read it here if you like: http://is.gd/JCYZIn

    So that’s just one way you might be able to use social networks to complement traditional in-class learning. Surely there are others as well.

  5. This would concern me if I was a staff member. One of the reasons listed for this policy is ““A lot of the policy is drafted to protect our staff,” Magee said. I am not sure that is a good reason for the policy. I will not proclaim to understand the dynamics of the Waukee CSD when I compare it to my district.

    Our systematic approach to a more open non-restrictive environment is that we would expect appropriate modeling and proper use of social media. Things will go wrong, but keeping those issues as “teachable moments” and not immediately going to the discipline/consequence model. Times are changing, are we hoping we can regulate social media through policy? I am not sure that is possible.

    I also think it would be fair to understand the rationale of the policy before passing judgment. The Waukee CSD does a lot of great things, and perhaps in a district of this size, it is the only way to begin to wrap their arms around it. Unfortunately, I believe that it may stifle both teachers and students.

    Jeff Dicks, Superintendent
    Newell-Fonda CSD

    • “Our systematic approach to a more open non-restrictive environment is that we would expect appropriate modeling and proper use of social media. Things will go wrong, but keeping those issues as “teachable moments” and not immediately going to the discipline/consequence model.”

      I think that’s right on the money. Being strict with technology policies makes it harder and scarier for teachers to use technology in *good* ways.

  6. I agree whole heatedly with the expectations of use for personal social media. I am not friends with any of my students on any social media site, but I am also not friends with anyone that I would not feel comfortable inviting out of a beer. This creates creditability problems, just as a teacher would feel uncomfortable if they were at Applebee’s having said beer and one of their students walked in. I also thing that the “expectations for educational networking sites” are just digital best practices anyway.

    However, when we got into the “expectations for all social network sites” and saw that you were not allowed to create a false or anonymous alias on any sight.The only thing I have to say to this is “yeah, right”. Everyone deserves personal privacy, and if you are doing something you shouldn’t be then you will be caught for legitimate reasons before you can be caught in violation of a technology policy.

    All the rest makes perfect sense, and are honestly just good professional best practices anyway. I have a personal Facebook that is very private (I had a hacker friend make sure I can’t be found unless I go find someone) and am working on setting up a professional “portfolio” type Facebook. If my students want to interact with me on my brand page (for all my writing, not just teaching stuff) they can. But they probably wont’ want to; it’s boring grown up stuff about cooking and organizing. I have other social networking sites where I truly am an “alias” though I never put anything online anywhere that I wouldn’t want someone being able to figure out that it was me.

    I agree that open polices are great, but at the same time I believe that certain technology best practices need to be put in writing so that everyone has a guide while learning to use media that is new to them.

    • I would love for this to be a best practices guide. Unfortunately, it is a policy proposal.

    • “… you were not allowed to create a false or anonymous alias on any sight. The only thing I have to say to this is “yeah, right”. Everyone deserves personal privacy…”

      I think the people who wrote this knew that just as well as we do. The way I read that passage was as a sort of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule.

      They certainly aren’t going to go around interrogating people and asking if they use an aliases online. And if you’re using an alias intelligently, nobody will be able to tell that it’s you.

      To me, that passage was just a way for the admins to cover all their bases politically. I have a hard time imagining they would care too much that Jane Doe, a middle school science teacher, has an account on Pinterest with the username “craftingmom123″ or some such. :-)

  7. There are 2 ways to consider this: as policy, which requires a fine tooth comb, since it’s basically like writing law; or as educational culture.

    As for policy:
    A – they shouldn’t use the word “friends,” unless they only want it to apply to facebook.
    B- is crystal clear.
    E- vague. The most restrctive level on facebook is “only me,” so that would prevent any use of facebook.
    F- Does this rule out using Twitter to discuss your work? Should read, “to discuss specific students or employees, by name or other explicit indicator.” Something like that. (I hate this.)
    General: Does blogging fall into social media?

    OK- that’s the cold look at policy, and I could go on forever doing that. Let me get tot he point…

    I hate this policy, and I could never work at a school that thinks this way about managing its teachers.

    A-just sucks. I can’t budge on this. My teaching flows through my ability to connect with students around content. This is the wrong way to handle it.
    B- also terrible, for the same reason. This, like most of the forbidden things here, is my choice! It is not wrong or illegal to give personal info, so don’t stop me. In fact, it’s not what they care about, so they should just write the policy to reflect what it is they actually want to prevent. it’s a little harder to do, but it’s upfront and shows a bit of trust in execution.
    E- Just plain vague. Does it imply I can never post anything publicly?

    Can I post a missing cat poster with my name and phone number on it? On a street light post? On a public website? On my neighborhood blog?

    K- I prefer to avoid clear outcomes and statements of purpose. I have desired outcomes of course, but they are quite vague and allow for student growth in unexpected areas. I can never predict where the course of a conversation will take us (unless I stop potentially fruitful tangents) and likewise, I can never predict what fruitful discussion I will have on facebook with my students! My objectives are broad and honorable. I need a policy that allows for that.

    I could go on forever talking about social media. I suppose this is the way that a nationally-governed school system has to go about things, but I find it sickening. I find it damaging to the teacher-student relationship. And I find the dichotomy it presents to a teacher’s life false, and inauthentic.

    These policies aim directly at preventing a teacher from unifying their classroom persona with their everyday soul. The boundaries are to be clear, and never the twain shall meet, unless through the director of communication. (what could be more inauthentic?)

    BAH!

  8. Consider this alternative recently approved by a Board in Ontario, Canada
    “It is the policy of the [...] School Board to encourage clear and effective communication by all trustees, staff, students and representatives using a variety of accepted tools, including social
    media. Use of social media must, like all other forms of communication, meet tests of credibility, privacy,authority and accountability.”

    The “tests” referred to are those mandated by Provincial and Federal law, as well as those mandated by professional accrediting agencies and associations. Thus, rather than a shopping list of don’ts, the overall impression (I think) in much more encouraging. Focusing on individual professionalism and responsibility rather than administrative policing and retribution.

    • MUCH BETTER! What a fine model.

    • Bravo to the folks in Ontario and to you Paul for sharing. It is ALWAYS better policy to define the activities that are wanted; not a laundry list of “don’t, don’t…” It makes it clear to the end users what is acceptable and when policy is broken to pinpoint what the offense is. I do not understand the alias clause. I suppose it is to keep the district from being liable if an employee is posing as someone else trawling as a predator for under-age contacts. My personal account is a thinly veiled alias which those who really want to find me can. what do these policies mean also for teachers who live where they teach and have school age children? The last of mine graduated last year, but if I’m reading this correctly, I could not be FB friends with my own child? In my house, that was a pre-requisite for getting a FB account.
      I echo the sentiments of other posters. How can we teach children about what is the proper and appropriate use of TEchnology in the 21st century if we are totally cut off from interacting with and modeling that behavior for our students?

  9. Some of it seems practical enough – the focus on security and awareness of the implications of what you do on social media should definitely be emphasized.

    What I think is really missing is any encouragement of community-building in social media. I don’t know if that type of thing would go elsewhere, but it’s pretty much entirely restrictive (you can’t do this or that) rather than co-creative.

  10. We are told to always provide rules and guidelines to students framed in a positive manner. For example: Instead of “Don’t run!”, post “Please walk.”

    I saw none of this style of respectful tone in this draft.

    I really like what i saw in the post above from Ontario. It is short, to the point, positive, and can cover a lot of “sins” should it need to.

  11. Our district is creating a social media policy. One point that I noticed is there is not positive mention of the benefits of social media. I think our policies should encourage social media.

    Here is how we stated it,

    “Staff is encouraged to use District-provided accounts and services such as blogs and websites to communicate with students, not their personal networking sites. To protect all parties, it is important that staff, students, and parents understand the boundaries of professional decorum in the use of ever-changing online, digital learning possibilities. Staff must conduct themselves in ways that do not distract from, or disrupt the educational process and in ways that protect students and staff members alike from inappropriate use or the appearance of inappropriate use.”

  12. YES! to what Paul Salomon Said. This proposed “policy” is awful. I could not work in this type of environment.

  13. I am a big fan of social media – twitter in particular (@daibarnes :). The policy is poorly framed – clearly a box-ticking exercise – but the idea is right. The Ontario policy is not that different but is more effective for all concerned IMO because you don’t have to cause your brain pain to read it. The key factor in all of this is how can you hold an adult accountable if they abuse their position of trust in relation to a minor. At my school, you are not allowed to *connect* to pupils on private comms systems until one year after they have left the school (we teach up to 18 year olds). You are not allowed to use your personal equipment to take photos of pupils. If you *connect* with a pupil, you must provide your username and password for the service to ICT Services (school-based equivalent of district comms person).

    Run the scenarios. On twitter, I follow a pupil who follows me. If I can send them a DM – which is not public for others, including their parents or other teachers, to see – then I am able to groom that child without anyone knowing until the child exposes the abuse. Open facebook pages/groups are fine but sending email on facebook is not (my pupils call that *inboxing*, which they do not use much).

    It is a good idea for any educational organisation to provide clear safety guidance for teachers dipping their toes in the water of social media, or, indeed, confident users getting a little slack in their online vigilance.

    All poilicies should state, just as this one does about photo consent, that if parental consent has been sought and received, then all is well because trust is established. To make the assumption this trust exists without it being discussed is naive. People who abuse children tend to seek out jobs where they can work with children without eyes being raised. If you think anything other that this, it might be an idea to read the accounts of abused children or their parents. As professionals in a position of power, we cannot be our own referees. We can be expected to behave properly – but not all of us do.

  14. I’m working on something similar right now. Here are my thoughts.

    A: I think this is okay, but I would rephrase it to be less big brother-y. You shouldn’t want to be friends with your students on Facebook. I have a couple of students who follow me on Twitter. You don’t want to know their personal lives nor they yours.

    B: Similar to above. I think it should be to protect the teacher’s life and privacy. There will always be exceptions.

    C, D, & E are not policy issues, but reminders about how the internet works. Unnecessary–should be part of face-to-face training perhaps.

    F & G seem reasonable, though G could have “without permission” added.

    H seems silly. You could/should notify parents if the kids involved are under 13; otherwise, I see no need. Something about professional judgement in the use of educational sites seems useful.

    I is what drives many people nuts when the tools they have aren’t could enough. Why make it a policy unless you’re going to insist that everyone use the district tools?

    J seems unnecessary.

    K–okay, but also seems more about teaching and not policy.

    L How about students and teachers must follow the school’s code of conduct even when participating in online forums for school.

    M–okay

    N–missing an opportunity to publicize your school. If the site is public, have students use pseudonyms or only first names to protect their privacy.

    I find the entirety of section 3 problematic, and P is exactly why I wouldn’t want to friend students. What if I see something that indicates abuse? What if I see something that looks like a suicide attempt or bullying? Do I really want to have that responsibility outside of the school day?

    Much of section 3 is about security risks on personal devices–no one’s business but mine.

  15. @Laura-

    “You shouldn’t want to be friends with your students on Facebook… You don’t want to know their personal lives nor they yours.”

    Please explain or justify. This shouldn’t be taken for granted, and many teachers (myself included) would disagree outright. I think a teacher should know their students.

    I want my students to know me, and I want to know them, because our work is not simply the transmission of knowledge and technique; It’s their development – it’s their education, as a crucial component of their one life. I aim to know that life and partner in building it.

    Should I not want this? Is this bad teaching somehow?

  16. I have a slightly different take on this. I used to work as an instructional tech consultant working with teachers on how to use these tools in the classroom. Now I work for ISEA and spent several days each year meeting with school districts on this very topic.
    I think it is important to draw a line between the personal life of a teacher and the professional life of a teacher. It makes perfect sense to me to allow teachers to create social media pages for professional use only. That still allows interaction with students and sets up clear expectations for both students and teachers on the use of the media.
    I have represented way too many people who make poor decisions in the use of social media. While I would like to advocate for free use of the technology I’ve seen too much of what can happen without clearly defined expectations.

    • @Randy- A little push back.

      I have represented way too many people who make poor decisions in the use of social media… I’ve seen too much of what can happen without clearly defined expectations.

      You’re right to an extent, we need to have a clear sense of purpose about what we’re doing with social media (free and open as that purpose may be) but that doesn’t imply we need to be restrictive.

      Some people also teach very badly. That doesn’t mean we should hand everyone a script, or take the chalk out of the classrooms.

      These guidelines aren’t “clearly defined expectations.” They’re a set of handcuffs.

  17. Thanks for all the constructive feedback, and for those throwing darts, not so much ;-) We will use the constructive comments as we continue to develop this policy. One piece of the digital age that has always puzzled me is why some throw those darts and assume so many things with an absence of facts:-) Some may find it interesting that we have reached this point out of requests from teaching staff for policy/guidance on the use of social media. The draft you are reacting to is the result of us taking policies from other districts and tailoring/tweaking. We then took it to all our teaching staff and asked for their input and received valuable feedback there. Our administrative team has looked it over, and of course our school board (3 of whom happen to be attorneys). Additionally, we have solicited input from our school legal counsel. Anyone who has ever worked on policy, especially new policy, knows what difficult work it is. We’re making progress, and I’m confident that over the next couple months we will get a policy in place to serve the staff and students in our district. It is still a work in progress. Unfortunately, we can’t just “trust to common sense” – that never works. Policy, by nature, cannot be static but needs to evolve over time. Especially a policy such as this one that attempts to deal with an area of “society” that is changing so rapidly. Interestingly, in just the past two weeks I have fielded/dealt with four different issues and concerns from parents pertinent to staff use of social media and their children’s inclusion, so we know the need is there. We have a great, progressive, high achieving school district full of innovative and talented teachers eager to embrace social media in their classrooms – and also eager to avoid conflict and issues as are most teachers. So keep the positive input coming and we’ll take it all into consideration as we further develop this policy. Check out our website! As a district we have embraced the use of social media to engage our parents and communities we serve!

    David Wilkerson
    Superintendent
    Waukee Schools

  18. Hey Dave- Great to hear from you!

    I am so glad to hear that this policy is coming out of what your community (educators most importantly, perhaps) envisions for the use of social media! It’s clear that the legal ramifications are of enormous importance for public schools. It is obvious from the policy that it is geared towards this sort of thing.

    A little pushback: Did someone here say, “trust to common sense,” as you quoted? I haven’t heard that message, and I think the criticisms have been more articulate than that.

    I hope you don’t suppose I’m throwing darts. I’m only advocating for the kind of approach that I think can foster good, progressive learning communities and the educational goals that I believe in.

    Thanks, for chiming in.

  19. I should add, you’re right. There’s nothing common about common sense. We do need to make explicit what goals and guidelines we have for our communities. That is critically important.

    My criticism in terms of policy-writing is that i think this draft is for more heavy-handed and condemning than it should or needs to be.

    But again, who cares what I think? This ultimately serves your teachers, who apparently love it. I suppose it also affects the students. How do they feel about it?

    • That will be a great next step – involve our students! One of those why the heck didn’t we think of that moments :-)

    • I’m Australian-based and I think most of this makes sense. The point about ‘common sense’ may apply to the very general statement in someone else’s proposal (above) about maintaining ‘professional decorum'; we have a lot of new young staff recently who need to be explicitly told about what this means (their boundaries around self-protection are often non-existent), and this policy does that reasonably well. I have a separate school ‘identity’ on Facebook, and I leave it up to students whether they wish to ‘friend’ me or just use closed sites we set up for subject discussion. I’m concerned about the comments on ‘inboxing’, and I see this as the same as emailing. Most of my correction is done digitally at the senior level, and in terms of potential for ‘grooming’ students, this seems little different from ‘inboxing’- it is a vital form of communication, which allows for some privacy – students don’t always want corrections or comments published for all to see. Unless students never speak to staff. face-to-face without someone else present, these opportunities will always, sadly, present themselves.

  20. Hello again.

    It might be an idea to write a simple and accessible AUP that participants sign which refers to an adherence to a more organic and responsive policy doc with the nitty gritty in it. As the more complex doc is updated in response to use and feedback, participants need simply be notified of amendments.

  21. I know a lot of my colleagues who are not immersed in the Ed Tech world – thinking about this, reading blogs, following Twitter DAILY – would probably appreciate something like this. At least it’s pretty dang clear, and what seems like it would be common sense isn’t for some people.

    Additionally, a lot of the people I coach automatically assume the answer will be “no” if it comes to an educational network. This leaves the possibility open, but puts in some things to think about. People just want to know where they stand. Ambiguity is hard for many.

    Thanks to Supt. Wilkerson for his comments and clarifications.

  22. This is a classic flaw. Trying to create an exhaustive list of the the things you should or should not do is doomed to failure, because you can never account for all the contingencies. Much better to instead have a set of general principals to guide people in decision making and then trust that professionals will do the best they can. If you can’t trust the people working for you to do that, then why are they working with you? They are trusted enough to work with kids but not to make decisions about social media? Doesn’t make sense.

  23. It actually reads as common sense to me and i understand the organization doing their best to mitigate their liability. A lot of that stated is actually legal restrictions that they are informing their staff of and ive met a lot of teachers who know it but disregard it at the risk of their livelihood.

  24. That seems to be rather over complicated? Why should any school employees want us social media at all?
    A second thought came to my mind? Do they have an e-mail policy or a phone policy? Is there a policy forbidding you to share or say certain things when you are texting someone?
    All in all I think this silly – but on the other hand if you do not cut it out in paper (e.g. the cat in microwave incident) the americans will sue your pants off!!!
    Instead it should be:
    A) we already wasted to much time drafting this, so we will keep it short.
    B) Use you common sense
    C) Ask if you do not know
    D) Don’t sue us because we saved your and ours time drafting a policy and you didn’t use your common sense or asked!

    Done!

    • I’m with you to a certain extent, but we do need to be conscious and clear of our purpose with students. There is nothing common about “common sense,” but that doesn’t mean we need to be entirely prescriptive either.

      What I like most about this policy though, is that it was built within the community and redrafted and so on. That is more important than anything, perhaps.

  25. I agree. Any technology used to day has rules, regulations, policies more so to protect the user. These are very sound points and everyone utilizing social mediums should use them. There would be less trouble.

  26. Since the first section is “should”, IMHO it stands a suggestions. Move S,T,U,V, and W to the first section and I have no problem with it. Then you have a set of common sense guidelines that are followed by “musts” that are already law or policy. I have no problem with a school board suggesting common sense and emphasizing important mandates that already exist.

  27. None of what appears in the school policy is unreasonable. Let’s not forget that one of the fundamental reasons we have such policies in schools isn’t necessarily to only protect people from themselves, it’s to ensure that the District–in case of a flare-up, dust-up, socially embarrassing situation–is protected from liability. From my humble perspective, this policy not only accomplishes that, but also gives the District some leeway in saying, “Well, yes, we told employees not to friend students…that teacher went ahead and did it anyways on Facebook or G+, so we are currently investigating it with potential disciplinary action to be taken.”

    Of course, this stops way short of the expectation that we will actively use commercially-funded, adult social spaces to teach our children. You might say, a social networking site like Facebook might be seen as a singles bar that occasionally features people who are older than 13 but sometimes lie about their age. Even if you “close” the bar and restrict patrons to child-friendly ones, all the people present are being sold a product and exploited.

    Do we want our children exploited in schools through social networking sites that call into question school’s ability to serve in loco parentis? Let’s get rid of the distractions, leave “social” at home and educate our parents so they can better parernt their children, and only use district-safe technologies that empower children while not exploiting them for financial gain, indoctrinating them in the use of web sites that seek to “sell them” on their worldview and values.

    ;-)

  28. “You might say, a social networking site like Facebook might be seen as a singles bar that occasionally features people who are older than 13″

    That’s unnecessarily negative, and is not a fair assessment of the power of social media. Social media is an enormous space, with all sorts of behaviors and cultures. They are completely determined by the people using the platform, and who they choose to share with and view. This is quite distinct from a singles bar, where everyone comes with a singular purpose.

    Finally, “Let’s get rid of the distractions, leave “social” at home”

    This is foolish. There is no leaving social. It pervades the human consciousness. Denying that is asking your students to leave their selves at the door. I find THAT more unacceptable than anything in this policy.

    • Paul, thank you for sharing your points. I admit that my assertions were a bit ham-fisted, but these are exactly the points made during meetings (ok, not the singles bar but close). Schools simply want to avoid liability and it’s easier to switch off social media than deal with it. When dealing with large districts, it’s easier because every topic that comes is potentially a polarizing one…and social media mis-use by educators and students isn’t potentially polarizing, it is.

      Furthermore, while a teachers’ perspective of social media may involve a reciprocal dialogue, or conversation that leads to learning, this is NOT the goal of policies/procedures being put in place. For example, the school board can allow social media usage, while the school district lawyers may find ways to deny it in practice.

      Social media may be powerful, though poor choices by educators and students incline district administrators in a different direction–towards top-down control, closed systems, and eliminating risk that is rampant in social encounters.

      Embracing the use of social media involves tailored levels of trust and reasoned responses…regrettably, the suckers’ choice of 100% ban OR 100% allow are what schools gravitate towards.

  29. Thank you so much for posting this information online. I think that it is interesting how schools are trying to restrict use of an open communication platform. Just as with anything that could be seen as potentially dangerous, I would say that the use of social media by teachers is ok unless those teachers use social media in an unethical manner. In this case, they must know the difference between right and wrong. The list of what is right and wrong would be a bit long than this :). Essentially, Facebook is for people, and people represent identities. The work identity of a teacher is fairly congruent (or should be) to the identity of the teacher at home watching tv or chatting on Facebook. Restricting the use of Facebook seems silly and out of the context of what the school can restrict unless they have been sued or had an actual reason to do so in the future. A good reason…

  30. Stephanie Madlinger (@cyberteacher) Reply April 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Some interesting concerns. Will this need to be edited in the near future to cover the next “tech tool” in schools? Is this student focused? Teacher focused? Leader focused?

  31. I find the entire third section a bit problematic, as some of the language blurs the boundary between personal social media use and district social media use. Is it the intent of the policy to regulate personal social media use? I think that can be kind of a slippery slope, though I know it’s becoming increasingly common in all industries to have such policies in place.

    Thank you for sharing this–we are very close in my district to agreeing on a policy, but we’ve decided to focus only on district/instructional social media use, not personal. And I agree with others about the positive framing–I know it’s just semantics, but it can really go a long way in getting staff buy-in.

  32. Some of the policies that schools are creating regarding social networking remind me more and more of the one-room schoolhouse laws for teachers which dictated what each teacher could do in their spare-time. Professional learning networks support educators and accelerate learning, they should be encouraged!

  33. @alison I made the comment on inboxing and to suggest that using a private email account to contact students on their private accounts is okay is naive. All teachers should use school provided email for communique with minors in their charge. So should students to contact teachers. The whole point is that these systems are able to ve monitored by school administration and parents are aware they exist. Anything else is not ok. That’s why facebook messaging is not ok unless your account password is known by your school administration in the interests of transparency. Policy such as this is there to protect everyone involved. Just because common sense says bad things shouldn’t happen does not mean they don’t.

  34. daibarnes has got me thinking: he obviously works in a much more tightly regulated system than mine, and I can’t decide whether such a restrictive policy is necessary re email/direct messaging/inboxing. I only use school email to students, but they use their private emails. Yes, technically the school has my password and can monitor interactions, but in reality this doesn’t happen. I have special school identity for Facebook, not just because we use Facebook groups for class communication, but because we find that keeping in contact with students is much easier through inboxing, when we’re communicating information about careers, tertiary offers etc. as students often change emails, or simply don’t use it. I would consider allowing the principal access to my password, if that would allow for use of the system! Our student wellbeing team, in particular, often ‘friend’ students as this makes monitoring cyber-bullying issues much simpler. Perhaps greater transparency (in terms of parent awareness of what communication is used) is part of the solution, because it is important that we protect vulnerable students from the occasional predatory adult. I wonder, should some such policies be dependent on the age of the student – for example, inboxing would be OK for senior students in their last two years? I’m still torn on this one.

  35. I think most of the policy is just common sense. Here is how one district early on created a social media policy that not only protects both staff and students and but also guides them. http://www.behrcommunications.com/pr-blog/schools-embrace-social-media

  36. Great discussion. I too wonder about the conflict between the focus on student learning versus safety. I found the following resource on social media policy that gave me more background on the subject. I don’t believe anyone has posted it yet.

    Participatory Learning in Schools: Leadership & Policy (2012). Making Progress: Rethinking State and School District Policies Concerning Mobile Technologies and Social Media. Retrieved from http://www.cosn.org/Default.aspx?TabId=12543

  37. Some great best practices shared here…but policy?

    While recognizing that there is a thin line between your personal and professional life as an educator, especially a “social” one, there still should be some credit given for commom sense.

    Are there any legal precedents or these policies? Our distract is staying SAFELY in the gray until the state makes some more decisions…

  38. Late to the game here Scott, and so my apologies as I comment in a rush without reading the 49 other comments.

    KEY SUGGESTION: What should they do, rather than what they should not do? Guidelines, not Commandments.

    I created some blogging ‘rules’ a while back (I should have called them ‘guidelines’- link below).I based these on the school beliefs:
    Respect – Inclusion – Safety – Learning.

    Seems to me that these can apply to a district to:

    1. Be respectful and professional – If it can be found by a student, it is part of your identity be it online or off.

    2. Inclusive – You have a right to not connect with students, if you do choose to connect, your choices must be explicit and non-discriminatory.

    3. Safety – Protect student identity, respect privacy, be pro-active and concerned about what you, and what others you connect with, share.

    4. Learning – If you saw students in the mall doing something wrong, you would likely speak to them. The same applies on the internet. You are an educator and if you choose to connect to student on social media, that role continues.

    Is something missing from these 4 points?

    Some specifics re the policy in your post: (Because I doubt what I said above would fly as a policy for most school districts.)

    A- Tried this on FB… then I moved up from Middle to High School and had a hard time turning down kids when their peers were already connected to me. Created a limited profile so these students saw less.

    E- ‘the most restrictive level’? Ridiculous! May as well not even connect! How about ‘a conscious and informed level’?

    L- Do we want teachers doing something like this policy? a) I hope not b) see the start of this comment~ my post: http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/blog-rules-respect-inclusion-learning-and-safety/

    S- Facebook changed the web… it used to be that you could have an alias, now everyone is connected to their name. I do think that if you connect to students in any way, then your identity should be explicitly clear.
    ~Dave

  39. …just found this:
    Creating Social Media Guidelines for Educators
    Christine Fisher
    http://www.ascd.org/conferences/conference-daily/ac12/social-media-guidelines.aspx

    * Don’t share secrets.
    * Protect your own privacy.
    * Be honest.
    * Respect copyright laws.
    * Be the first person to admit your mistakes.
    * Think about the consequences.
    * Don’t neglect your day job.
    * Remember that quality matters.

  40. I live in an international city where it is not unusual for High School students to frequent bars and dance clubs.

    Most High School teachers will not go to those areas of the city on weekends. Teachers aren’t afraid that students will see bad behavior. Teachers are more worried that they will see student behaviors that they do not want to see.

    They hold the same standards for social media – some things teachers don’t want to unintentionally see or hear.

    I can’t see problems with the guidelines mentioned becoming policy. That said, I hope that those who wrote the guidelines have solicited appropriate feedback from attorneys and union reps. Once guidelines become policy, possible consequences for breaches must be understood.

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