Thursday, January 13, 2011

School Districts Get Social Media Guidelines

The Texas State Board of education recently updated the Educators’ Code of Ethics to include provisions for how educators use social media. Teachers must refrain from inappropriately communicating with students through the use of social media under the new requirements. Now that sounds like an obvious, common sense rule, but unfortunately these things must be spelled out for some.

What hasn't been obvious for school districts is how they should develop guidelines and policies. The new Code of Ethics provisions don't provide specifics, those are left for districts to decide.

School districts have had to operate in a system with minimal guidance for social media. More and more districts are waking up and recognizing that social media tools are tremendous assets in education. But it's still a situation where the technologies have continued to outpace the laws and districts are still trying to get caught up. Anything school districts can do to help teachers recognize the potential pitfalls will help us all.

I applaud the state for giving some initial guidance, but without proper application by districts, we're left to fend for ourselves in a lot of ways.

A school PR colleague from New York pointed out a fascinating experiment by a school district that is taking the unusual step of letting the students decide their social media rules:

A higher standard
Educators are held to a higher standard. News reports of inappropriate contact or relationships between teachers and students are jarring and alarming. School districts must provide guidelines to help their professional educators while protecting students and maintaining parent confidence and trust.

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