SOCIAL NETWORKING POLICY
1. Internet AUP still in force
This policy is adopted in addition to, and not as a substitute for, the School District’s Internet Acceptable Use Policy, which governs use of the school district’s technological resources.
References to any specific platform are not included to limit application of this policy to use of that program. All online, electronic or computerized means of communication are subject to this policy. Given the rapid pace of technological change it is not possible to identify all proprietary or commonly named or identified means of such communications.
2. General Concerns
Shutesbury Elementary School recognizes the proliferation and, in some instances, usefulness, of online conversation between employees and students and/or their parents or guardians. However, due to the nature of social networking sites, there exists a risk that the lines between one’s professional life and personal life will be blurred. SES staff should always be mindful of how they present themselves to the world, online and otherwise. Engaging with current students through social media could undermine the employee’s authority to maintain discipline, encourage inappropriate behaviors and compromise the employee’s ability to remain truly objective with his or her students.
In addition, any online communication using one’s own personal resources, as opposed to school district resources, compromises the employee’s, as well as the school district’s, ability to retain public records in accordance with the requirements of the Commonwealth’s public records laws. The law requires public employees who send, receive or maintain records in their capacity as public employees, to retain, disclose and dispose of such records in compliance with strict provisions of the public records law. This law applies whether or not the record is in the form of a paper document or an electronic communication. When staff members communicate through school-based resources, such as staff email or school sponsored web pages, such records are retained and archived through the school’s information technology department. If, however, an employee communicates outside of these resources, such information is not retained. The burden falls on the employee to comply with public records laws when using any publically managed social network accounts to communicate with students and/or parents and guardians.
3. Expectations of Staff
With these concerns in mind, Shutesbury Elementary School has extended its expectations for staff members’ use of social networks, email accounts, text message features of cell phones, use of blogs, and other electronic or technologically based communication systems.
A. Before endeavoring to establish any social networking account, employees should thoroughly familiarize themselves with the features of any account they choose to use and institute features to keep information private. The employee must become educated about the features of any other social networking site before using it. The employee will be responsible should any information intended to be “private” becomes “public” due to one’s ignorance of the features of the social network or failure to properly use such features.
B. Because any information shared privately with a recipient could be redistributed by such recipient, without knowledge or consent, the same principles applied to in-person communication should be applied to online conversation. In essence, nothing posted online is ever truly “private.”
C. Every employee is expected to keep the line between one’s professional life and one’s personal life clearly drawn at all times. Only an educational social media account or school-based email account should be used to communicate with students and/or parents and guardians on matters directly related to education. The “friends” associated with such an educational social media account should only be members of the educational community, such as administrators, employees, students, and parents of such students. Employees must reject friend requests from individuals who do not fit into any of these categories.
Staff must maintain a separation of personal and educational social media accounts. Personal accounts should not be used to share school-related information and school-based accounts should not share personal information.
D. At all times, and in the use of any form of communications, staff members must always adhere to student privacy rights and the rights of employees to have their personnel and medical information kept confidential. Information that is protected by law from disclosure to third parties must not be communicated online in any way. An employee may not post confidential student information in any form on a social media site.
E. Employees should communicate with students and parents on educational matters only, and only through school-based resources, such as school-provided email or web portal accounts. Use of one’s personal email account or social networking account to discuss school business with students and parents is prohibited. It should be noted that if an employee inadvertently uses his/her personal email, this does not shield such email from the provisions of the public records law or from discovery in litigation. It only prevents the archiving of such messages through the school district’s automatic email archiving system. Maintenance, protection and archiving of information posted on accounts not managed by the school is the responsibility of the employee.
Information sent or received by a school employee is subject to public records retention, exemption and disclosure requirements.
F. Any document created or received by a public employee in his or her capacity as such is subject to retention, and perhaps disclosure under the public records law.
G. No matter what medium of communication an employee selects, he/she must adhere to appropriate employee/student boundaries.
H. This policy is not intended to infringe upon an employee’s right to speak publicly on matters of public concern, or to communicate with fellow members of their union on workplace issues, so long as such communication adheres to appropriate time, place and manner restrictions and does not interfere with the performance of his/her job duties. However, restrictions may be placed upon the freedom to express oneself via social networking on matter concerning one’s work. Those restrictions are intended to preserve student confidentiality, maintain one’s status as an objective employee and role model for students, be able to maintain order and discipline of students, and remain objective with respect to the students.
I. Employees are discouraged from using home telephones, personal cell phones, personal email accounts and personal social media accounts to communicate with students. Communications with students, even if school resources are not used for such communications, are within the jurisdiction of the school district to monitor as they arise out of your position as an employee. Any conduct, whether online or not, that reflects poorly upon the school district or consists of inappropriate behavior on the part of a staff member, may expose an employee to discipline up to and including discharge. An employee may also face individual liability for inappropriate online communications with students and/or parents and guardians, as well as exposing the district to liability in certain instances.
The district recognizes that, in limited cases, use of cell phone, text messages or cell phone calls or emails outside of regular school hours may be reasonably necessary. For example, in connection with school sponsored events for which employees serve as duly appointed supervisors (e.g. on field trips), they may need to convey messages in a timely manner to students and may not have access to school based accounts, school provided telephones or school based web pages. In such limited circumstances, the district anticipates that employees will make reasonable use of their cell phones or other devices to convey time sensitive information on scheduling issues and the like.
J. When an employee needs to access his/her personal email account or private social network account using school district computer resources, it must be during non-pupil contact time and it must adhere to the district’s AUP policy.
K. When communicating as an employee of the district in his/her online communications, the employee must be aware that readers will assume he or she is “speaking for the school district.” Therefore, all online communications, when an employee is actually acting on behalf of the district, or creating the appearance that he/she is doing so, must be professional at all times and reflect positively on the school district.
L. The use of educational social media sites should be communicated to the building Principal and/or Superintendent. Use of the school’s logo, likeness or any school photographs or other school property must be approved by the Principal and/or Superintendent. Below are examples of minimum information required for faculty to provide to administrators:
- Must submit username and page URL to Principal.
- Account needs to be created with your district email address.
- Cannot follow student accounts.
- Must be a business page where comments are disabled
- Account needs to be created with your district email address.
- Must submit page URL to the Principal.
- Privacy settings must be enabled to limit access to viewers as previously stated in 3C above.
- Account needs to be created with your district email address
- Can only follow student accounts created with their district email address.
Reviewed by Shutesbury Policy Committee: 12-15-16
First Reading, First and Final Vote: Shutesbury School Committee – 01/19/17