Union County Public Schools
5 - Chapter 5 - Instruction
5-22 Social Media
Revisions History: 06/01/2021, Reviewed by GC 08/19/2020, 09/05/2019; Approved 10/07/2014
Related Policies & Documents: 5-22 AG (a)
The Board recognizes the importance of incorporating current technology tools, including new methods of electronic communication, into the classroom to enhance student learning. It further recognizes the importance of employees, students, and parents engaging, learning, collaborating, and sharing in digital environments as part of 21st Century learning. The Board strives to ensure that electronic communication tools incorporated into the school curriculum are used responsibly and safely. As practicable, the Board will provide access to secure social media tools and approved technologies for use during instructional time and for school-sponsored activities in accordance with policy.
The Board understands that employees may engage in the use of social media during their personal time. School employees who use social media for personal purposes must be mindful that they are responsible for their public conduct even when not acting in their capacities as school system employees. All school employees, including student teachers and independent contractors, shall comply with the requirements of this policy when using electronic social media for personal purposes. In addition, all school employees must comply with all Board Policy when communicating with individual students through other electronic means, such as through voice, email, or text-messaging.
The Board is committed to ensuring that all stakeholders who utilize social media technology for professional purposes, including staff and students, do so in a safe and responsible manner.
a. Social Media. Social media is any form of online publication or presence that allows interactive communication, including, but not limited to, social networks, blogs, Internet websites, Internet forums, and wikis. Examples of social media include, but are not limited to, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and Flickr.
b. Professional Social Media. Professional social media is a work-related or professional social media activity where the employee identifies their profession, work responsibilities, and could include the use of district names/logos/brand. This includes platforms such as LinkedIn. As this form of social media is maintained personally, it follows the same rules as Personal Social Media.
c. Personal Social Media. Personal social media use is a non-work-related social media activity. Personal social media activity is as a private citizen and cannot reference employment with the District in any manner.
d. District Social Media Platform. District Social Media is any social media page, feed, or entry formally maintained by the District, school, department, or class for official purposes. It includes sites and/or services such as Facebook; Twitter; Snapchat; Instagram; YouTube; and similar applications.
2. District Social Media Use
a. All individuals wishing to have authoring access to district social media sites must obtain written approval from the Superintendent or designee (the designee may include a principal, director, or department head as appropriate). Approval for authoring access shall be available only to District employees. Volunteers, visitors, parents and/or students shall not be granted permission to directly author, make changes to, be provided with usernames/passwords, or communicate via district social media accounts.
b. Communication on a district social media space should be handled in the same manner as communication in a classroom and/or workplace. The same standards expected in UCPS professional settings are expected on professional social media sites.
c. All such communication must be consistent with the educational objectives of the District and cannot be used for personal or non-District purposes.
d. Employees shall exercise caution, sound judgment, and common sense when using professional social media sites.
e. District social media communication must be in compliance with existing UCPS policies and applicable laws, including, but not limited to, prohibitions on the disclosure of confidential information and prohibitions on the use of harassing, obscene, discriminatory, defamatory or threatening language. Additionally, licensed employees conform to the Standards of Professional Conduct for North Carolina Educators.
f. No personally identifiable student information may be posted by employees on social media sites (including but not limited to district, professional, and personal social media accounts) without permission from the parent/guardian.
g. The Board reserves the right to direct the removal of postings and/or disable a page, of professional social media sites that do not adhere to the law or do not reasonably align with the goals of the district without prior notice to the poster.
h. The District’s social media sites may not be used for commercial, religious, political, or for-profit activities and/or communication. The District’s social media entries and communications are prohibited from including links to third-party sites with a commercial, political, and/or religious purpose. Links to sites selling products; advertising goods and/or services; and/or containing language, images and/or materials that are in violation of District policy are strictly prohibited.
i. A post, or comment, that contains vulgar, profane, or racists words; is discriminatory, harassing, threatening; is a violation of privacy; or is a violation of this Policy will be deleted in its entirety without notice to the poster/commenter.
j. Communication with students shall only occur through district social media sites and shall follow these guidelines:
1. District social media sites that are school-based should be designed to address reasonable instructional, educational, or extra-curricular program matters;
2. Each school year, schools will notify parents about the district social media activities their children may participate in.
3. Employees using district social media have no expectation of privacy with regard to their use of such media. The district will regularly monitor district social media sites to protect the school community.
3. Personal Social Media Use
The Board recognizes that some employees may choose to post personal information on the Internet through personal websites, blogs, chat rooms, uploading content, or by making comments on other websites or blogs. The Board values the employees’ creativity and honors the interest in engaging in these forms of personal expression on their own time, should they choose to do so. However, problems can arise when a person posting identifies or appears to be associated with the district, or when a person posting violates the rights of the district, or the rights of its employees.
Employee speech engaged in as a private citizen may be protected by the First Amendment. However, when an employee makes statements in the course of employment or related to his/her job duties, the employee’s speech is not subject to First Amendment protection. Furthermore, the First Amendment does not protect employee speech that constitutes a true threat; fighting words; call to illegal action; obscenity; child pornography; defamation; perjury; plagiarism; solicitation to commit a crime; or blackmail.
a. Limitations on Personal Social Media
1. Employees are prohibited from utilizing their personal social media accounts for official school purposes, without written permission from the employee’s supervisor. For example, permission is required prior to communicating assignments to students; providing directions or instructions to an athletic team; posting or communicating cancelation and other status updates regarding school-sponsored events; communicating to students regarding classwork or assignments, etc. Employees are also prohibiting from posting any activities that they have access to as an employee to their personal social media accounts, without removing personally identifiable information or obtaining written permission from the supervisor and the parent/guardian.
2. Employees shall not post confidential information about students, employees, or school system business. Employees shall not post images of District facilities, staff, students, volunteers or parents without written authorization from persons with authority to grant such a release.
3. Employees shall not use the district’s logo or other copyrighted material of the system on a personal social media site without express, written consent from the Assistant Superintendent for Communications and Community Relations.
4. Employees shall not access social media accounts for individual or personal use during school and work hours. Furthermore, employees shall not use District devices to access social media accounts for individual or personal use.
b. Communication with UCPS Students
In order to maintain a professional and appropriate relationship with students, employees shall not communicate with students who are currently enrolled in schools on personal social media sites. UCPS employees’ communication with UCPS students via personal social media is subject to the following exceptions: (a) communication with relatives or friends and (b) if an emergency situation requires such communication, in which case the employee should notify his/her supervisor of the contact as soon as possible. Employees shall not knowingly allow students access to their personal social media sites that discuss or portray sex, nudity, alcohol, or drug use or other behaviors associated with the employees’ private lives that would be inappropriate to discuss with a student at school.
4. Any postings, on district, professional or personal social media sites, of the following nature are prohibited:
● Creates a harassing, demeaning, or hostile working environment for any employee.
● Disrupts the smooth and orderly flow of work, or the delivery of services to the staff or students.
● Harms the goodwill and reputation of staff, students or the community at large.
● Erodes the public’s confidence in the district.
● Involves any kind of criminal activity or harms the rights of others, may result in criminal prosecution or civil liability to those harmed, or both.
The District shall monitor online activities of employees who access the Internet using school technological resources. Additionally, the Superintendent or designee may periodically conduct public Internet searches to determine if an employee has engaged in conduct that violates this policy. Any employee who has been found by the Superintendent to have violated this policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.
6. Social Media Use Agreement
The Superintendent will ensure that staff receives a copy of this policy annually and that a Social Media Use Agreement is included in the Internet Use Agreement.
LEGAL REF: U.S. Const. amend. I; Children’s Internet Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 254(h)(5); Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. 2510-2522; Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 20 U.S.C. 1232g; 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq.; 20 U.S.C. 6777; G.S. 115C-325(e) (applicable to career status teachers), -325.4 (applicable to non-career status teachers); 16 N.C.A.C. 6C .0601, .0602; State Board of Education Policy EVAL-014
UNION COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION
REVIEWED BY GENERAL COUNSEL: 8/19/20