Here’s one more item to add to your back-to-school to-do list: tighten access to your social media accounts.
An activist group with branches in Texas and other states recently held a training session for members of the public interested in learning how to review school library books, monitor curriculum and research educators’ social media.
To limit the potential for controversy over social media posts, the best protection is to restrict access to your social media accounts to actual friends and family, not the public. Do not allow students or parents to be friends and think long and hard before you friend a colleague or administrator.
In addition, make sure you’re complying with your school district’s social media policy. And do not post anything on social media during school time.
If you wish to have a specific work account, post only work-related content, and do not include any comments on matters of public concern. Do not post pictures of your students or assignments without clearing it with parents and administration first.
Teachers do have a First Amendment right to comment on matters of public concern, but a public employer may regulate the speech:
“Under Pickering, if an employee speaks as a citizen on a matter of public concern, the next question is whether the government had 'an adequate justification for treating the employee differently from any other member of the public' based on the government’s needs as an employer.”
This requires some evidence that the speech has caused a disruption.
Teachers may also be able to assert a privacy interest in social media posts, but only if they have taken steps to restrict the scope of their social media.
Furthermore, comments related to working conditions may not enjoy these free speech protections.
TCTA members with questions about social media and their district policies should call the Legal Department at 888-879-8282 to speak with a staff attorney.
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