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School Social Media Policy: 3 Guidelines to Follow

School social media policy

Stories of professionals, educators included, being fired for things they posted on social media aren't hard to come by. Some teachers have lost their jobs from old pictures they had online and others have been let go after simply communicating with students over social media.

School social media policies vary, and what's acceptable at one school may be frowned upon at another. However, regardless of your school's policy, it's important to be careful with social media—and it's usually best to keep your professional life separate from your personal life. Here are three important guidelines to follow as you write your own personal code of social ethics.

Stay Away from Inappropriate Posts

In 2013, Colorado high school teacher Carly McKinney was fired for tweeting photos of herself smoking marijuana and drinking. McKinney's Twitter handle was found by local media, and parents were unhappy, to say the least. Although recreational use of marijuana is legal in that state, the tweets were still considered a violation of school policy.

Think twice before posting a photo of yourself indulging—even if it is legal. For instance, consuming alcohol with your friends may not be barred in the context of social media, but if you're a teacher, these photos may not be the best representation of who you are in the classroom. If you're on the fence about posting something, stick with a better-safe-than-sorry mentality.

Use Caution When Connecting with Students

In most cases, staying disconnected from your students online is a smart idea and may even be a requirement. A number of teachers have lost their jobs after simply connecting with students on social media. One teacher in New Hampshire was even let go for refusing to "defriend" students on Facebook.

Because social media is so informal, the lines between teacher and student can easily blur, and conversations can become personal very quickly. If you connect with some students but not others, it could also seem like certain students are getting preferential treatment, making things uncomfortable for others in the classroom. By staying away from connecting with students, you won't have to worry about who's viewing your posts—whether it's your students or their parents.

Make Your Profile Private and Skip the Personal Details

It's common for students to try to pry into their teachers' private lives. They can use geotagging or employment details to find personal information. For example, one teacher was nearly fired after students found photos of her bodybuilding on her Instagram account. According to a Business Insider article, the school "gave her three choices: delete the posts, make her account private, or lose her job."

To keep your information private, make sure that only your connections can see your photos, remove any location or geotagged information, and leave your school affiliation out of your profile. On some applications, like Facebook, you can customize who sees each post. This will allow you to share certain posts with a broader audience (if you use the account for networking, sales, or marketing) and keep more personal posts private.

Even if you don't have a specific school social media policy to guide you, try to keep your profiles private, assess your posts before they go live, and ask your friends and family to respect your privacy by being cautious about what they post or tag you in. If you have questions about the rules your school currently has in place, go to leadership and ask. If your school doesn't have a policy, you might even be able to convince them to put one in place so the policies are crystal clear.