District Administration December2017 - 55
Magette-author of the book Embracing Social Media: A Practical Guide to
Manage Risk and Leverage Opportunity-
says there was nothing objectively inappropriate about posting the videos, but
there was a disconnect between intent and
reception. "That helps us become more
sensitive," she adds.
The videos were shared with the team,
but not posted to the rest of the world on
Focus on behavior, not technology
The Radnor Township School District
near Philadelphia first created a social
media task force of employees at the
beginning of the 2012-13 school year.
They held focus groups with parents, students and teachers; conducted a districtwide survey; and researched policies in the
private sector and other districts.
Still, Radnor faces issues all the time
as new social media applications appear.
The district's firewall blocks services such
as Facebook, but teachers can override the
block to use social media in classrooms.
"You can't take a broad brush to social
media," says Michael Petitti, the district's
director of communications. "You have to
examine each service for its merits."
The district is currently figuring out
how students can use Twitter, Facebook
and Instagram productively. The district's
website offers several recommendations
for teachers. One involves creating Facebook pages for famous historical figures.
Petitti's advice to districts still crafting
social media rules is to focus on behavior,
not particular technologies. "When we
were creating our policy five years ago,
livestreaming wasn't a thing," he says. "If
we had made our policy specific to the services that existed in 2012, we'd be having
to rewrite it now."
Once a policy is created, it is important that it has visibility with faculty and
staff. At every orientation for new teachers in August, Petitti runs a session on
social media policy. Part of that is going
over rules about when it is inappropriate
to speak on behalf of the district on social
VIRTUAL BALANCE-Sun Prairie Area School District in Wisconsin works to
maintain students' privacy online while also encouraging them to use social
media as a modern communication tool.
Superintendents and principals continue
to struggle with how to respond when students misbehave on social media off-campus or post pictures of themselves doing
illegal activities such as drinking alcohol.
"The chatter on social media is endless, and it is impossible to monitor 24/7,"
Radnor's Petitti says. "But when we hear of
things affecting the instructional day, we
take action. We communicate with parents, have speakers come in or have support for students in the counseling center."
But McLeod warns against overreaching when regulating off-campus speech
and behavior. The legal standard for taking action is when the behavior disrupts
the school environment in a material and
substantial way. When administrators
over-interpret this they risk punishing a
student for minor incidents-and getting
into trouble themselves.
For instance, in 2014 a school district
in Camden County, New Jersey, agreed to
settle a student's lawsuit by paying legal
fees, dropping any punishment and clarifying its social media policy after the student claimed she was punished for tweeting profane comments about her principal
in "purely off-campus speech," according
to the lawsuit.
Still, several administrators say their
responses can serve as a learning opportunity when students make mistakes online.
Joe Sanfelippo, superintendent in the Fall
Creek School District in Wisconsin, says
students on sports teams post updates on
Twitter about their activities. On a recent
"senior skip day," teams used foul language
to criticize students who didn't show up
for school. The tweets appear on 50-inch
monitors in the K12 school. "I found
one of these students and explained that
we have 5-year olds who can read that,"
Sanfelippo says. "He was shocked and
five minutes later it was all gone. I didn't
have to call the parents or shut down the
account. We treated them with respect.
We talked about it and moved on."
In some districts there is still a lot of
fear about even small steps such as creating
a school Facebook page. Many superintendents do not have Facebook or Twitter
accounts, says Magette, of Eudora.
"You have to be comfortable supervising people who have skills and knowledge
you don't have," she says. "Some leaders
are much more comfortable in that zone
than others." DA
David Raths is a Philadelphia-based writer
who regularly covers edtech.
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