Social media is a part of everyday life, but some employers have guidelines about what's acceptable, including several school districts.
Tamoco Hill's been teaching for 13 years, but she embraces technology with every lesson at Twiggs County High.
She uses a site called Edmodo. It's like Facebook, but for the classroom.
"I post assignments or a quiz or a discussion, and students go in and they post it," Hill said.
To get her students on board and ready to use the online platform, she had teach them digital responsibility.
Hill holds them to the same standards she holds herself to, both professionally and personally.
"If I have any idea or thought that something could be taken negatively, then my first thought is don't post it," Hill said.
That's exactly what Twiggs Superintendent Elgin Dixon hopes all his teachers will do.
He says his employees go through annual training about what's acceptable on social media.
Dixon says he holds all of them accountable since they've had the training.
"We will first hear both sides of the story. Once we hear both sides of the story, we will make an administrative ruling concerning it and we'll make a determination based upon the facts," Dixon said.
He says they haven't had a problem in Twiggs, and he hopes they never do.
Dixon says he knows there's a fine line between what's acceptable and what's not.
"Its easy to cross, so I always advise my staff, 'Don't do anything on social media that you wouldn't want shown on WMAZ,'" Dixon said.
That's what Hill hopes to instill in her students, too.
"Whatever you put, it's there forever, so if you want to be known for these crazy things and foolish things that you do outside of class, be mindful that they can come back and hurt you," Hill said.
Here are the social media policies for teachers in Bibb and Houston Counties:
SOCIAL MEDIA Goal four of the strategy map speaks to a reliable organization. The employees’ attitude and behavior, both in and out of the work environment as well as content and comments on social media, influence the community’s attitude and perception of the schools and the District. As an employee of the BCSD, it is imperative that you represent the District in a positive manner; you are a role model for all students. At all times, employees’ actions should reflect the District’s core values: competency, open communication, defined autonomy, honor, and loyalty. Employees who act unprofessionally or in a manner that diminishes their ability to positively lead and impact the lives of children, or their ability to be viewed as a positive role model may by subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.
The Houston County Board of Education (HCBOE) uses social media as one of many communication tools. These guidelines provide direction for employees who participate in online social media activities.
Whether or not an employee chooses to participate in a blog, wiki, online social network or any other form of online publishing or discussion is his or her own decision. Free speech protects individuals who want to participate in social media, but the laws and courts have ruled that school districts can discipline employees if their speech, including personal online postings, disrupts school operations. It is important to create an atmosphere of trust and individual accountability. Keep in mind that information produced by HCBOE employees is a reflection on the entire district and is subject to Board Policy IFBG, Internet Acceptable Use. Personal postings, even if marked private, may also be subject to relevant HCBOE policies and procedures, as well as to relevant local, state and federal laws. By accessing, creating or contributing to any blogs, wikis, podcasts or other social media for classroom or district use, you agree to abide by these guidelines. Please read them carefully before participating in any social media application.
What is Social Media?
Social media is user-created content posted online in a collaborative environment where users share opinions, knowledge and information with each other. Tools include, but are not limited to: Social Networking sites (Facebook, Google+, Ning, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.) Photo and Video Sharing sites (YouTube, Flickr, Shutterfly, etc.)
Podcasting and Vodcasting Blogs (Blogger, WordPress, etc.) Social Bookmarking (Diigo, Delicious) Wikis (Wikispaces, Google Sites, etc.)
Appropriate Response to “Friend” Requests
The lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred in the digital world. By virtue of identifying yourself as a HCBOE employee online, you are now associated and connected with colleagues, students, parents and the school community in general. Use these connections wisely and well. You should also ensure that content associated with you is consistent with your work at HCBOE and your role as a public school/State employee.
Engaging in personal social-networking friendships on Facebook or other social networking sites is prohibited with students and strongly discouraged with parents or guardians of students. The district recognizes that Houston County is a tight-knit community and that staff members may have family members who are parents or students. However, the district cautions staff members against engaging in personal social-networking friendships with these individuals while the student is a member of the HCBOE. Instead, the district recommends that you use your official, school or system page instead. A suggested response for “friend” requests by parents or students follows.
Recommendation for responses to “friend” requests on staff personal pages:
If you are a student or parent requesting to be my “friend,” please do not be surprised or
offended that I ignore your request. As an employee of the Houston County School System,
district procedures and practices discourage me from “friending” students or parents on
my personal pages. I would encourage you to “like” our school’s and/or Houston County
School System Facebook pages instead. Thank you for your understanding.
The Houston County School System encourages district employees with a personal online
presence to be mindful of the information they post. One’s online behavior should reflect
the same professional and personal standards of honesty, respect and consideration that one
uses face-to-face and in work-related settings.
Be aware that even if you delete personal information, it may still be stored on the website’s
server for a longer period of time.
There can be no realistic expectation of privacy on the World Wide Web, even if marked
“private.” For example, “friends” may copy and paste your information and send it to
You are responsible for learning the appropriate security settings for any social media
(personal or professional) that you may use. Ensure that the settings are such that any
personal content may only be viewed by your intended audience. Be aware that, even if your
privacy settings are set properly, it is still possible for anyone who you’ve allowed to see
your profile to copy and paste text and send it to someone else. It is also easy for others to
“tag” or identify you in photos that they publish with or without your knowledge and
permission. Similarly, if you enable settings such as Facebook’s ability to allow “friends of
friends” to view your content, it is extremely likely that unintended viewers will have
access to pictures and other personal content.
It is inappropriate to use e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging or social networking sites
to discuss with a student a matter that does not pertain to school-related activities.
Appropriate discussions would include the student’s homework, class activity, school sport or
club or other school-sponsored activity. Electronic communications with students are to be
sent simultaneously to multiple recipients, not to just one student, except where the
communication is clearly school-related and inappropriate for persons other than the
individual student to receive (for example, e-mailing a message about a student’s grades).
Material that employees post on social networks that is publicly available to those in the
school community must reflect the professional image applicable to the employee’s position
and not impair the employee’s capacity to maintain the respect of students and
parents/guardians or impair the employee’s ability to serve as a role model for children.
While social media can be a powerful communication tool and an educational tool for
students and parents, HCBOE employees are personally responsible for the content
they publish online. Be mindful that what you publish will be public for a long time—
protect your privacy.
Remember that social media in the classroom is an extension of your physical classroom.
What is inappropriate in your classroom should be deemed inappropriate online.
Teachers who use social networking to interact with students and/or parents in an
educational manner or as a communication tool must find a ways to interact without giving
students and parents access to their personal information and posts. Many social network
sites allow you to create “groups” or “pages” where you can interact with students without
giving them access to your personal account. Please see detailed Facebook guidelines for more
When contributing online do not post confidential student information. Do not post pictures
of any students on your personal sites.
Use a HCBOE provided e-mail as your e-mail contact for official or school-related pages.
Do not use your HCBOE provided e-mail as a username or e-mail contact for personal pages.
Please remember that all HCBOE policies and procedures, as well as relevant local, state and
federal laws (copyright, fair use, Family Education Right to Privacy Act, personnel statutes,
criminal statutes, etc.) apply to social media communications.
Overall Guidelines for Using Social Media
The following are general guidelines for using social media whether personally or professionally.
How you represent yourself online is an extension of yourself. Do not misrepresent yourself by
using someone else's identity or misrepresenting your identity. Be honest about who you are,
where you work and what you do.
Always a School Employee
Although the lines between public and private, personal and professional, can become blurred in
the digital world, you will always be considered to be a HCBOE employee. Whether it is clearly
communicated or not, you will be identified as an employee of the School District in what you do
and say online. If you don’t want it on the 10 p.m. news or in the daily newspaper - don’t share it
Represent HCBOE district values. Express ideas and opinions in a respectful manner.
All communications should be done in good taste. Build trust and responsibility in your
relationships. Do not denigrate or insult others including students, staff, administrators,
parents, or other districts. Any online contributions must be in accordance with the appropriate
policies, guidelines and relevant laws. Consider carefully what you post through comments and
photos. A violation of these policies, guidelines and/or relevant laws could be regarded as a form
of professional misconduct and may result in disciplinary action.
Build Community/Positively Represent School
Represent HCBOE, the students and parents you serve in the best light. Respect the privacy and the
feelings of others. Under no circumstance should offensive comments be made about students or
colleagues (including administrators) nor the District in general. Negative comments about
people may amount to cyber-bullying and could be deemed a disciplinary offence. Your posts and
comments should help build and support the school community. Do not comment on nor forward
unsupported information, e.g. rumors. You are responsible for what you and others post, even if
on a personal page, so be certain it is accurate and supports your organization. It is a good idea to
monitor your profile page to ensure that all material posted by others doesn’t violate these
guidelines. Once posted you can’t take it back.
Other Online Activities
Part of the Internet’s popularity is its many online diversions. Be careful of gimmicks or games
that many websites use to increase web traffic. Examples can include risqué surveys or quizzes.
Often comments or information thought to be shared in private are capable of being shared
publically. Also, employees may be disciplined for using their online access for non work-related
Share your Expertise
Write what you know and be accurate. Add value to the discussion. Post something useful. Provide
worthwhile information and perspective. A district’s most valuable asset is its staff represented
by its people and what you publish may reflect on the school. Speak in the first person with your
own voice and perspective.
Respectful and Responsible
Employees, parents, and students reflect a diverse set of customs, values and points of view.
Be respectful for others’ opinions in your posts or comments. You are responsible for the content
you post. Do your tags, descriptions, and your image portray you and the District in a professional
Own and Correct Mistakes
If you make a mistake, admit the mistake and correct it quickly. Share your error with your
principal, Human Resources, or District Relations so they can help address the issue effectively.
Clearly state if you’ve corrected a previous post. Even though damage may be done, it is best to
admit your mistake and correct it. Apologize if appropriate.
HCBOE Social Media Guidelines for Faculty & Staff
Online postings and conversations are not private. Do not share confidential information whether
It is internal school discussions or specific information about students or other staff. What you
post will be seen by others and will be online for a long time. It can be forwarded or shared in just
a few clicks. Do not write about colleagues or students without their expressed permission.
HCBOE Social Media Guidelines for Faculty & Staff
Be careful about sharing too much personal information. People often share personal information
such as their pet names, their parents and children’s names, where they grew up, and more. This
information may help a hacker guess your passwords. If you share that you will be out of town, a
criminal may use this to target your home for a burglary. Do not share with a student your
personal problems that would normally be discussed with adults. Be smart and don’t share too
The Internet is becoming an increasingly popular educational tool and place to share personally
created movies. You are responsible for all you do, say, and post online, including video. Anything
you post online should represent you in a professional manner as others will see you as connected
to the School District. Anything you show in your classroom should be previewed by you in its
entirety, prior to any student seeing it. Consult a supervisor if you feel the content may be