SOCIAL NETWORKING POLICY OF THEPEABODY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
1. Internet AUP still inforce
This policy is adopted in addition to, and not as asubstitute for the School District’s Internet Acceptable Use Policy (IJNDB),which governs use of the school district’s technological resources.
2. General Concerns
The Peabody Public Schools recognizes the proliferation and,in some instances, usefulness, of online conversation between teachers andstudents and/or their parents or guardians. However, due to the nature of social networking sites, there exists arisk, without care and planning, that the lines between one’s professional lifeand personal life will be blurred. Ourstaff should always be mindful of how they present themselves to the world,online and otherwise. Should an educator“friend” a student on Facebook, subscribe to a student’s “twitter” account,regularly engage in email “chat” with a student, exchange text messages withstudents or engage in other electronic communication, the school district is concerned,and the educator should be concerned, that such activities may undermine the educator’sability to remain truly objective with his or her students.
In addition, any online communication using ones’ ownpersonal resources, as opposed to school district resources, compromises theteacher’s as well as the school district’s ability to retain public records inaccordance with the requirements to the Commonwealth’s public recordslaws. The law requires public employeeswho send, receive or maintain records in their capacity as public employees, toretain, disclose and dispose of such records in compliance with strictprovisions of the public law records law. The law applies whether or not the record is in the form of a paperdocument or an electronic communication. When staff members communicate through school-based resources, such asstaff email or school sponsored web pages, such records are retained andarchived through the school’s information technology department, If, however, a teacher communicates outsideof these resources, such information is not retained. The burden falls on the teacher to complywith public records laws when using personal email or social network accountsto communicate with students and/or parents and guardians.
3. Expectations of Staff
With these concerns in mind, the Peabody Public Schools hasinstituted this “Social Networking Policy,’ and announces its expectations forstaff members’ use of social networks such as Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter,personal email accounts, text message features of cell phone, use of blogs, andother electronic or technologically based communication systems.
1. Before endeavoring to establishany social networking account, teachers should familiarize themselves with thefeatures of any account they choose to use. For example, Facebook requires account holders to take specific steps to“privatize” the information they place online. You must educate yourself to these features of Facebook or any othersocial networking site you select. Youwill be responsible should any information you intended to be “private” becomes“public” due to your own ignorance of the features of the social network youhave decided to use or your failure to properly use such features.
2. You must also know that anyinformation you share privately with a recipient could be re-distributed bysuch recipient without your knowledge or consent. The same principles you apply to in-personcommunication should be applied to online conversation: use discretion and donot place trust in individuals who have not proven themselves trustworthy. In essence, nothing you post online is evertruly “private.”
3. The school district expects you to keep the line between yourprofessional life and your personal life clearly drawn at all times. There is no reason why this cannot be done,even in light of the proliferation of social networking sites. What is required is some forethought beforeusing social networking for both your professional and personal lives to besure that these lines never become blurred. For example, if the district does not maintain a web portal for staff tocommunicate outside of school hours as necessary with students and families,and an educator wishes to establish a Facebook or personal email accountthrough which he or she will communicate with students, he or she shouldestablish a personal Facebook identity or personal email account. He/she should only use his/her educationalFacebook account or educational email account to communicate with studentsand/or parents and guardians on matters directly related to education. The “friends” associated with such aneducational Facebook account should only be members of the educationalcommunity, such as administrators, teachers, students and parents of suchstudents. It is required that teachers will reject friend requests from individualswho do not fit into any of these categories.
4. At all times, and in the use of any form of communications, staff memberswill
always adhere to student privacy rights and the rights ofemployees to have their personnel and medical information kept confidential. Information that is
protected by law from disclosure to third parties will notbe communicated online in a way that unreasonably exposes such information toretrieval by those third parties. Forexample, through an educational Facebook account, a teacher may not postconfidential student information on the “wall,” the “information” section, orthrough any part of that Facebook account that would be accessible to other ofthe teacher’s Facebook “friends” associated with that account. If a teacher wishes to communicate privatelywith a student, parent or guardian through the educational Facebook account,such communication shall be conveyed only through the private email/messagefeature of Facebook, so that only the student may view the message and respondto it.
5. Teachers are encouraged to communicate with students and parents oneducational matters only and only through school-based recourses, such asschool-provided email or web portal accounts. Use of one’s personal email account or social networking account todiscuss school business with students and parents is prohibited. It should be noted that, just because ateacher uses his/her personal email as opposed to a school email account, thisdoes not shield such email from the provisions of the public records law orfrom discovery in litigation. It onlyprevents the archiving of such messages through the school district’s automaticemail archiving system. We again remindteachers that information sent or received by them, even through personal emailor social network accounts that are related to their capacity as a school employee,are still subject to public records retention, exemption and disclosurerequirements.
6. If a teacher conveys school related messages to students and parents onhis/her private account, he/she should save such email or any communicationconveyed through a social networking site or print and save a paper copy ofsuch email or other online communication, file it and regard its privacy ashe/she would any other document concerning that student. The teachers should forward copies of anysuch emails or online communications to his or her school based email accountsso that it can be properly retained and archived in compliance with therequirement of the public records law. Any document created or received by a public employee in his or hercapacity as such, is subject to retention and perhaps disclosure under thepublic records law.
7. No matter what medium of communication a teacher selects, he/she shouldadhere to appropriate teacher/student boundaries. You are a role model, not a student’s friend,you are his/her teacher and you should always conduct yourself in accordancewith this understanding.
8. This policy is not intended to infringe upon teachers’ rights to speakpublicly on matters of public concern or to engage in concerted protectedactivities with fellow members of their union on workplace issues, so long assuch communication adheres to appropriate time, place and manner restrictionsand does not interfere with the performance of their duties. However, when teachers speak via socialnetworking sites or tools on matters concerning work, you are speaking as anemployee and not as a citizen and restrictions may be placed upon your freedomto express yourself. Those restrictionsare intended to preserve student confidentiality, maintain your status as aneducator who should command and receive the respect of students, be able tomaintain order and discipline in your classroom and remain objective withrespect to your students.
9. Teachers are strongly discouraged from using home telephones, personalcell phone, and prohibited from using personal email accounts and personalFacebook accounts to communicate with students. Your communications with students, even if you do not use school resourcesfor such communications, are within the jurisdiction of the school district tomonitor as they arise out of your position as an educator. Any conduct, whether online or not, thatreflects poorly upon the school district or consists of inappropriate behavioron the part of a staff member may expose an employee to discipline up to andincluding discharge. Even if you are notusing a school telephone, computer, classroom or the like to engage in contactwith a student, such contact is not outside of the school district’s authorityto take appropriate disciplinary action. If your behavior is inappropriate, undermines your authority to instructor maintain control and discipline with students, compromises your objectivityor harms students, the school district reserves the right to impose disciplinefor such behavior. A teacher may alsoface individual liability for inappropriate online communications with studentsand/or parents and guardians, as well as exposing the district to vicariousliability in certain instances in which case the teacher shall indemnify theschool district completely.
At the same time, the district recognizes that in limitedcases, the use of cell phone, text messages, cell phone calls or emails outsideof the regular school hours may be reasonably necessary. For example, in connection with schoolsponsored events for which teachers serve as duly appointed advisors, they mayneed to convey messages in a timely manner to students and may not have accessto school based email accounts, school provided telephones or school based webpages. In such limited circumstances,the district anticipates that teachers will make reasonable use of their cellphones or smart phones to convey time sensitive information on schedulingissues and the like.
10. Teachers may not access their personal email accounts or privateFacebook accounts using school district computer resources.
11. If you are communicating as an employee of the district in your onlinecommunications, you must be aware that readers will assume you “speak for theschool district.” Therefore, all of youronline communications, when you are actually acting on behalf of the districtor creating the appearance that you are doing so, must be professional at alltimes and reflect positively on the school district.
12. In the use of your Facebook account or other social networking sites,you may not without express permission from the Superintendent of Schools, usethe school’s logo, likeness or any school photographs or other property thatbelongs to the school. Further you maynot post any photograph of a minor without express written consent of thatminor’s parent or guardian. Anyrestrictions placed on use of the school’s logo or likeness will be imposedconsistent with an employee’s right to engage in concerted, protectedactivity.
13. Reference to “Facebook” is not included to limit application of theirpolicy to use of that program. Allonline electronic or computerized means of communication are subject to thispolicy. Given the rapid pace oftechnological change, it is not possible to identify all proprietary or commonlynamed or identified means of such communications.
Approved by thePeabody School Committee: May 28, 2013