District Administration December2017 - 54
STEERING SOCIAL MEDIA
identified and suspended.
But Eudora also recognizes the positive
potential of social media for students, faculty and staff.
For instance, Eudora's local newspaper
recently closed and students decided the
high school newspaper's Facebook page
could publish sports stories and details on
other events, says Kristin Magette, Eudora
Schools' director of communications.
"Teachers are encouraged to experi-
ment and try different things, but they are
operating with a net," she says.
Striking a balance
Districts that are 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.
When teachers take to social media
District social media policies often set expectations for teachers' use of personal
accounts, both in projects with students and in their lives outside of school.
When Radnor Township School District near Philadelphia began crafting
its policy a few years ago, some teachers wanted to use personal accounts for
classroom activities because they saw it as a hassle to set up new, separate
accounts, says Michael Petitti, the district's director of communications. "We
decided that if you want to speak as a teacher, you must create a specific account
and have students follow that, not your personal account," he says.
And what happens when a teacher posts videos on Facebook of themselves
drinking at a party on Saturday night?
Public school teachers are government employees who can be held to a higher
standard because they serve as role models for young children, says Scott McLeod,
an associate professor of administrative leadership and policy studies at the
University of Colorado Denver.
Courts have ruled that schools' ability to discipline teachers for off-campus
conduct can be defined by the local community, he says.
"So what might fly in Boston or San Francisco might not fly in rural Texas or
Georgia," he says. "The community gets to decide the norms, and teachers don't
have a lot of rights in that space."
The guidelines at Eudora Schools in Kansas detail the care teachers must take
in connecting with students on social media, says Kristin Magette, the district's
director of communications.
"Do not send permission-based friend or follower requests to students," the
policy notes. But if employees accept friend or follower requests from students, the
policy encourages them to accept all such requests and not selectively limit their
interactions to those who could be perceived as a few preferred individuals.
Ultimately, common sense goes a long way, says Joe Sanfelippo, superintendent
in the Fall Creek School District in Wisconsin.
"We have tried to tell teachers that if you wouldn't say it to a parent sitting right
in front of you, then you shouldn't say it on social media."
54 December 2017
Communications directors also partner with district technology leaders to create cultures that leverage social media and
enforce policies on district networks. Scott
McLeod, an associate professor of administrative leadership and policy studies at
the University of Colorado Denver, says
too many districts write policies that have
a restrictive and punitive tone.
From 2012 to 2016, McLeod was
director of learning, teaching and innovation for the Prairie Lakes Area Education
Agency, which serves 40 small districts
in northwest Iowa. Many administrators
there said they were implementing 1-to-1
programs because they wanted students to
be critical thinkers, technologically fluent
and globally connected, he says. "But then
the policies, instead of sending the message 'yes, be powerful and go do meaningful work,' were all about no, no, no,"
McLeod says. "The policies are working
against some of the stated learning goals."
Districts with a different mindset focus
on empowerment, he adds. Instead of
writing an "acceptable use policy," he has
encouraged districts to write an "empowered use policy." It could say, "Yes, you
have the right to connect to others to
facilitate your learning. Yes, teachers have
the right to use online environments to
further their career goals," he says.
Protecting student privacy is paramount, but using social media as a contemporary communication tool is also
very important, says Brad Saron, superintendent of the Sun Prairie Area School
District in Wisconsin.
"I like the concept of 'yes, and' when
you are trying to figure out the pushpull between those opposite poles," he
says. "Yes, we are going to leverage social
media as a modern communication tool
to inform the public, engage parents and
allow students to dialog. We also are going
to protect students' privacy." In Eudora,
for example, a parent called a principal
upset because a coach was posting team
practices on a YouTube channel to help the
players see their progress over the season.
But this parent's child was embarrassed by
the way her body looked in the videos.