How to Build a Sound Policy for the Use of Social Media and School Websites

Every school has a website. Most students―and even teachers―are on social media. But a challenge within most school districts still exists: the lack of sound policies for the use of social media and even a school’s own website.

Michael Smith, founding partner of the California-based law firm, Lozano Smith, presented “School Websites and Social Media Pages: A Great Idea if Done Well” during last week’s School Law Practice Seminar presented in Denver by the National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys.

“We’re living in an era of TMI (too much information), or what I refer to as the Wild West,” Smith said. “Policies, practices and the law are not keeping pace with technology.”

Smith suggests that school districts take a collaborative, bottom-up approach, starting with a discussion that includes staff input, and then develop policies to create a model that will work. Once a policy is in place, the work of a district is not done, according to Smith, who also recommends both staff and student training to further the advancement of digital citizenship.

In addition to discussing case law involving social media, Smith urged those in attendance to understand the objective of different engagement models when creating a policy around school websites and social media use.

The models include one-way communication, i.e., dissemination of group information; controlled two-way communication that has a monitored and regulated interactive element; and uncontrolled communication where the only regulation involved is that which is mandated by law.

Finally, Smith provided valuable best practices when creating social media policies and left those in attendance with three specific ideas regarding social media use for staff and students.

• Consider requiring staff to use official district educational social media to communicate electronically with students when in course and scope of district duties.

• Consider prohibiting staff from communicating with staff/students via text message or non-district email accounts unless group message.

• Limit district staff/student electronic communication to monitored channels owned by district and consistently discipline for improper conduct.

Learn more about the National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys.

Find out more about Lozano Smith Attorneys at Law.

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