Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sample Social Media Policy for Schools #K12SM

Social Media Overlap
One issue that comes up frequently in schools is teacher's use of Social Media.  Should we allow it?  How much should we allow?  Should we block? Should we open?  Can teachers friend students?  Can teachers follow students?  What about cyber-bullying?  What about inappropriate pictures?

Questions abound.

Solutions lay in grey areas.

I know I've wrestle with whether or not a policy is necessary.  Most of the time I think a specific social medial policy is an unnecessary burden on teachers.  Teachers should be trusted to do the right thing and when they don't existing policies can be applied to social media interactions.  But then every year a teacher does something inappropriate - and the wrestling match starts anew.

For the past couple of years I've been working on the policy below - so far it remains in draft form - but I thought I'd share it here to see what insights my PLN has to offer.  Feel free to discuss in the comments section or on Twitter #K12SM.


Social Media Guidelines


These guidelines are intended to provide employees with guidelines for appropriate online activity.  Although these guidelines cannot address all instances of possible inappropriate social media use, it is intended to offer guidelines to employees, thereby helping employees avoid costly missteps online.  The nature of the Internet is such that what you “say” online will be captured forever and can be transmitted endlessly without your consent or knowledge.  Employees should keep in mind that any information that is shared online instantly becomes permanent and public.


These guidelines apply to all employees’ use of the Internet, including participation in and use of social media; regardless of whether such use occurs in the workplace and regardless of whether such use involves the Division’s electronic equipment or other property.

Social Media Defined

The rapid speed at which technology continuously evolves makes it difficult to identify all types of social media.  By way of example, social media includes: (1) social-networking sites (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn); (2) blogs and micro-blogs (i.e. Twitter, Blogger); (3) content-sharing sites (i.e. Scribd, SlideShare); and (4) image-sharing sites (i.e. Flickr, YouTube).  This list is for illustrative purposes only, however, and all online activity is governed by these guidelines.

Application of Other Policies

All of the Division’s employment and conduct policies apply to online conduct in the same way that they apply to conduct that occurs in and out of the workplace. 

Association with the Division

If you disclose your employment with the Division, for example in your online profile, you must use an appropriate disclaimer to make clear that you are speaking only on behalf of yourself and not on behalf of or as an agent of the Division.  An example of an appropriate disclaimer follows:

The opinions and viewpoints expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and viewpoints of [Division]Public Schools.

To ensure continuity of the Division’s message, employees may not represent themselves to be speaking on the Division’s behalf unless expressly authorized to do so.  If asked by the media to comment on a school related issues refer them to the Department of Media and Communications. 

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;
3.    Whether the communication could be reasonably interpreted as soliciting sexual contact or a romantic relationship; and
4.    Whether the communication was sexually explicit.

School Logos

Do not use school or Division logos on personal internet sites.

Prohibited Conduct

Employees are prohibited from engaging in any of the following in their online activities and posts:

-       Disparaging the Division’s services, students, leadership, employees, or strategy;
-       Making any false or misleading statements;
-       Promoting or endorsing violence;
-       Promoting illegal activity, including the use of illegal drugs;
-       Directing any negative comment towards or about any individual or group based on race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, or other characteristic protected by law;
-       Disclosing any confidential information.
-       Posting, uploading, or sharing any recording or images (including audio, pictures, and videos), taken in the workplace or at any non-public school event.

Nothing in these guidelines is intended to or will be applied in a manner that limits employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activity as prescribed by the National Labor Relations Act.

Duty to Report

Employees have an ongoing duty to report any violations of these guidelines or related policies by any other employees. The Division considers the duty to report to be a critical component of its efforts to ensure the safety of its employees and to preserve the Division’s reputation and goodwill in the community. Therefore, any employee who fails to report any conduct that reasonably appears to be in violation of these guidelines or related policies may be subject to discipline for such failure.

Questions About This Policy

Social media changes rapidly and there will likely be events or issues that are not addressed in these guidelines. If, at any time, you are uncertain about the application of these guidelines or if a question relating to the appropriate use of social media arises that is not fully addressed by these guidelines, you should seek the guidance of your principal or immediate supervisor before posting or otherwise engaging online. When in doubt, employees always should ask for guidance first because, once the information is online, it can never be deleted.

Additional Resources

Amazon Links

Social Media for Educators by Tanya Joosten iBook

Social Media for School Leaders by Brian Dixon iBook

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