Monday, December 23, 2013

Another Teacher Bites the [SM] Dust

The Washington Post reported in 2012 about a South Paris Maine football coach and teacher, Paul Withee resigned after a parent viewed an explicit photo posted on his Facebook page. According to Withee the photo was up for a grand total of 10 seconds … or just long enough to be viewed by the parent.

Another teacher bites the social media dust which begs the question - When will we learn?

Teachers, coaches, and principals should think twice before not friend students, school age former students, or parents on their personal social media pages. Ever. Never. Not even for their favorite student. Not to help with homework. Not to post reminders for about the test. Never means never. And if they do have a personal page, and really who doesn’t these days, the privacy settings should be set to the maximum. The public sees nothing.

Withee got some of this right. He was no students were linked to his page and no students saw him in all his glory. But he missed something and that something cost him his career.

If you’re a school-based administrator, think about sending a link to this article to your staff letting them know that their online conduct will get them in trouble. Here’s an exert from a document I wrote “Social Media Guidelines for School Employees” if you want to sound official.

Student/Staff Interactions
As with in-person communications, Division employees should avoid the appearance of impropriety and refrain from inappropriate electronic communications with students. As a matter of practice, employees should refrain from connecting with current and school-age former students on social media sites. Factors that may be considered in determining whether an electronic communication is inappropriate include, but are not limited to:
1. The subject, content, purpose, authorization, timing and frequency of the communication;
2. Whether there was an attempt to conceal the communication for supervisors and/or parents;

Social Media, when used correctly, is an excellent tool for teachers and administrators. It provides instant, two-way communication. It’s fast and almost universally available. Encourage your teachers to use it. Suggest Require them to set up professional pages for school use. Make sure you get a link and monitor their efforts. Praise them when they get it right and correct them when they get it wrong. As the building leader it’s all going to come back to you eventually so better to check it on the front end.

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