Facebook Posts Cost School Superintendent His Job

At the Connecticut Employment Law Blog, Daniel Schwartz wrote a two-part piece about a Connecticut school superintendent who was forced to resign after making some lighthearted remarks on Facebook. The comment that appears to have gotten the superintendent in the most trouble was this one referring to a personnel matter:

(After the jump…)

“I noticed that… my first day on-site involved counseling an administrator to retire or face termination. :)”

In a 4-1 vote, the school board approved a settlement, which
continues the superintendent’s $150,000 salary and benefits for six months or until he finds a new job, whichever is sooner.

How could this have been avoided?

For starters, the superintendent could have used a better filter and
some common sense. But also, I’m assuming that the school did not have a social media policy. With some rules, guidelines and — dare I say —
education, this could have been avoided.

As most of you know, I am a social media policy freak — Exhibit A.
Although I’ve been preparing these policies for quite some time,
recently, I’ve begun drafting social media policies for school and
universities and speaking to teachers about social media and the
workplace. I explain to them that a social media policy is not about
banning employees from Facebook and other social media sites. It’s about educating employees about social media, offering some guidelines about
how to make good use of social media, and mixing in a few rules to
protect both employees, the school, and the students.

I don’t have many rules. But those I do have are very important. For example, I preach that a teacher should never do any of the following — no exceptions:

  • Friend” a student or parent on Facebook. Keep your personal life out of the classroom.
  • Communicate with a student or parent on Facebook. Communication should be in-person, on the telephone, via a school e-mail account, or school website.
  • Monitor a student’s online activities. Don’t make the school responsible for what students do on their own time.

Another area on which I focus with teachers is Facebook privacy settings.
Namely, I show them how to adjust their settings so that — unlike the
Connecticut superintendent who lost his job — a Facebook post only gets shared with select friends — not school board (or any students). I
find this video quite helpful.

These links are good too.

Ultimately,
it comes down to common sense. Most schools are smart enough to realize that it’s a fool’s errand to ban teachers from using social media.
However, teachers and administrators have to think twice before hitting
“send.”