Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are great for sharing information, pictures, and life moments with others. Millions of people use these services every day. However, I have seen these services get teachers into trouble.Teachers must be very careful of their use of social media today. I have seen innocent pictures blown out of proportion by administration and discipline charges subsequently escalated to the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) or New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE).What teachers may not realize is that student images may be protected by FERPA or the student privacy act. Some students may not have consented to having their pictures taken, and even if they had, the consent does not cover personal social media accounts.
So what should teachers do to keep their social media profiles safe?
- Make profiles private – do not give everyone open access to your information. Think about your students viewing your vacation pictures of you in a bathing suit drinking an alcoholic drink. Sure, that may not lead to discipline – you were off the clock. But what happens when you took a sick day but decided to head to the mall for a great sale. You snap a picture of your bargains and now your coworker is in the principal’s office showing it off. That will lead to discipline. Set your profiles to private.
- Be careful who has access to your profiles – My previous point hits on an issue that has come up in the past – coworkers. You may have a friendly relationship with another teacher and are friends on Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat. That does not mean that they won’t use something you post against you. Schools can be a breeding ground for gossip between staff. Don’t be a victim of this, limit who has access to your posts.
- Be careful what you post – This is easily the best way to avoid teacher discipline or misconduct charges stemming from social media posts. If you wouldn’t show it to your own children or your grandmother, don’t post it. Even though you may have set your profile to private and then combed through your friends list, things can still get out. Nothing on the internet is ever 100% safe. Don’t risk your hard earned teaching position for likes.
What should a teacher do if they are facing disciplinary or misconduct charges?
- Don’t write or give any further information when first confronted with the charges – Principals may begin gathering statements and ask a teacher to write their side of the story. I advise against this without a full review of the documents and other statements being used to support the charges. Many teachers will readily admit to the charges in writing knowing they were wrong. These documented admissions are often used to bolster the schools case against the teacher and then forwarded to the state licensing board.
- Contact an Education Law Attorney immediately – the sooner an education lawyer is involved the better the chances at limiting the impact of the charges at both the school and state level.
Richard Asselta is an award-winning education lawyer who defends teachers against accusations of misconduct and discipline charges at both the district and state level. Call today for a free consultation and see how The Education Lawyers can safe guard your teaching license. (855) EDU-LAWYER