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Three Things to Know: Social Media Policy

Three Things to Know: Social Media Policy

As social media continues to gain popularity and evolves alongside our culture, it's important for our school districts to advance and update their school policies to reflect social media changes. Below are three things to know regarding social media and communication:

1. Implementing a Social Media Board Policy
Most district social media policies address employee behavior on social media, an issue that previously was adequately addressed through other existing policies. For example, they could be discussed in board policies regarding discipline or staff and student communication. However, new concerns affecting social media have come to the forefront, including: lawsuits against public officials for blocking members of the public on social media, legal actions against public officials for deleting unfavorable comments on public and personal social media accounts, and accessibility lawsuits targeting school districts and intermediate units. 

As a result of these new and emerging legal issues, it is now recommended that a separate social media policy is necessary to distinguish between government-operated social media accounts and personal and/or third-party social media accounts; and, to establish clear guidelines for district-operated social media accounts.

Click here for a sample policy.

2. Implementing a Crowdfunding Board Policy
Crowdfunding involves the solicitation and receipt of donations from the general public, via specially-designed websites (e.g. DonorsChoose, GoFundMe and numerous others) in order to fund a specific purpose or cause. Due to the ease of setup, and promise of significant fundraising outcomes, many school administrators and teachers with good intentions are using crowdfunding for fundraising. As with all fundraising, this leaves districts vulnerable to unwittingly participating in fraud schemes and/or inappropriate means to raise funds for school initiatives. Therefore, it is now being recommended that districts implement a board policy to address when individual employees or eligible organizations from a school entity wish to utilize crowdfunding to acquire resources for a classroom, program, and/or activity. The policy should incorporate considerations regarding approval of crowdfunding sites and campaign requests, as well as general expectations for crowdfunding campaigns and the resources acquired as a result.

Click here for a sample policy.

3. Archiving Social Media Posts
There has been a recent increase in school districts being contacted by companies that market social media archiving services. In their sales pitch, some of these companies are suggesting that the Pennsylvania Right to Know (RTK) Law requires school districts to archive all social media posts in order to comply with a RTK request that includes posts from the district’s social media accounts. 

However, please know that school districts are not required by any law to archive their official social media posts. If information remains publicly available via social media, the response to any RTK request is that the information is already public and can be accessed via the public social media accounts. It would be incumbent upon the requestor to go through the posts on the social media account for the information he/she is seeking. If the information no longer exists (e.g. a deleted social media post), the response to the RTK request is that the document does not exist. The district is not required to recreate documents that no longer exist or produce reports that do not exist.

An archiving service may be useful to a district that operates many social media accounts for its own use. For example, an archiving service may allow a school district to quickly search the full scope of social media activity on a particular topic or issue and have that information available in one centralized location based upon the use of certain search terms. This would save the time and effort of school district staff going through each social media platform to search past posts for a particular key word individually. For example, if a district wanted to ascertain how delaying high school start times was trending on their district social media sites over time, an archiving service could be useful. However, this would be for the district’s own convenience, and not an order to comply with the RTK Law and/or for responding to RTK requests.