Districts, employers ponder social media guidelines

Published October/November 2011 Voice

When the Central Bucks School District announced a new social media policy for school employees in September, the Central Bucks EA was pleased to find that the proposed policy is based on PSEA’s electronic media recommendations and guidance for members, and that the school district will consider input from school employees and students before finalizing the policy.

“PSEA hasn't been on the bandwagon, it built the bandwagon’’ when it comes to developing communications guidelines, said Central Bucks EA President Keith Sinn, in a media interview. “They've been proactive in understanding the changes in technology.’’

Social media is here; and it is here to stay. Millions of Americans use Facebook, Google+, Twitter, blogs, and other social media tools every day. So, as social media becomes more popular and more prevalent in our culture, school districts and other employers have begun to develop social media policies and guidelines for their employees.

Central Bucks plans to use an open, transparent process to create social media guidelines for its employees, but around the country, some educators face difficult situations.

Earlier this year, Missouri legislators passed a law that prohibited online communication between teachers and students, and mandated that all school districts create electronic media policies for employees.

A Missouri judge has granted an injunction about the part of the law prohibiting student-teacher communication, saying “(The law) clearly prohibits communication … using these types of sites. The court finds that the statute would have a chilling effect on speech.’’

While the injunction has been hailed as a victory for educators, the Missouri law is part of a national trend, as school districts across the country have begun to create strict social media policies for school employees.

Is this cause for concern? Not necessarily.  PSEA created a series of advisories, presentations, and other tools to help members use social media safely and effectively.

Visit www.psea.org/technology to find PSEA’s social media advisory, and contact your PSEA region office if you’d like to request a presentation on social media for your local association.

Despite the creation of new policies and guidelines, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can be powerful tools for PSEA members when used safely and effectively.

NEA, PSEA, and regions and locals across the state use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media to inform and engage members. Social media can be used in community outreach and coalition building efforts, to support grassroots organizing for public education.

New PSEA Treasurer Dolores McCracken finds that using Facebook is a valuable resource, particularly as a new statewide officer.

“When you’re connected to PSEA on Facebook, your Association network grows, allowing you to connect with other members and share information with the community,’’ McCracken said. “I value the opportunity to connect with members across the state – to share the work we’re doing on the state level, and to learn more about the issues they care about. It doesn’t replace the importance of the telephone and meetings, but it allows us to connect with people we may not otherwise have a chance to meet.”

Technology will continue to change the way people live, work, and interact with each other. PSEA will continue to provide tools to help educators take advantage of these resources and provide recommendations on using social media safely and effectively. Visit
www.facebook.com/PennsylvaniaEA to connect with PSEA on Facebook.   



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