Rule 1111 — Social Media, Non Instructional

Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) recognizes that students, parents, and other stakeholders use differing methods of communication, and strives to reach as many of our community as possible.  Social media is one of those methods. Social media is defined as on-line technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat, as well as any and all electronic communications, including but not limited to texting, emailing, instant messaging, group messaging and chat rooms. CCPS allows the use of social media and other technologies as avenues to communicate school system messages, encourage social media visitors to visit the CCPS website, and create opportunities for two-way dialogue.

EMPLOYEE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media sites may be used to facilitate communication among employees, groups of students and members of the school community to further the instructional program. Employees are expected to conduct all social media communications in accordance with Board policies, guidelines in the Employee Handbook, and directions from their supervisors, as they would in any professional situation.  Except as provided in this Rule, CCPS prohibits communications between students and staff through social media.

Transparency:

  • Employees may communicate with students or groups of students as long as the communication is intended for and available to the general public.

  • If a teacher wants to use social media as a form of communication to students as part of the instructional program, information about the use of any social media should be included in the classroom syllabus or extracurricular information, and department supervisors and school administration should be aware of what social media tools are being used. The classroom syllabus should include a clear statement of the purpose and outcomes for the use of any networking tool.

  • Parents/Guardians have the right to opt-out of using social media or having their children in CCPS use social media.  This can be done by formal, written direction to their child’s school.   Teachers cannot require social media as part of their instructional program, and must provide equal alternatives as needed.

  • Teachers must ensure that the social media tools they are using have been submitted to the principal for approval each school year. This may be an ongoing process throughout the school year, and be reevaluated annually.  The principal has the authority to reject or change any teacher’s use of social media as part of the educational process.

  • Teachers should enforce clear rules and expectations for students on social media related to the classroom, including proper language and respect. These rules should be clearly and explicitly stated in the classroom syllabus.

  • Teachers must inform parents of the social media tools being used, how their children are being contacted online, and the expectations for appropriate behavior.

  • Employees may not communicate one-on-one with individual students through social media.  This provision is subject to the following exceptions: (a) communication with the employee’s relatives; (b) communication by a teacher, coach, or extra-curricular sponsor with all students in the class or activity  on a matter directly related to an educational purpose such as a class assignment or other activity-related matter where sharing the information with others outside the class or activity would be improper or inapplicable, as long as the communication is both retained by the employee and made available to his/her supervisor and the student’s parent/guardian upon request; (c) communication by a teacher, coach, or extra-curricular sponsor with an individual student directly related to an educational purpose such as a class assignment or other activity-related matter where sharing the information with other students would be improper, as long as the communication is both retained by the employee and made available to his/her supervisor and the student’s parent/guardian upon request; and (d) if an emergency situation requires one-on-one communication with a student, provided that the employee notifies his/her supervisor as soon as possible so that the parent/guardian can be informed about the one-on-one contact and the reason for the exception.  Any other one-on-one communication for any other purpose shall be deemed to be outside the scope of employment and may subject the employee to disciplinary action.


General Conduct:

  • Employees should be aware that they will be identified as working for and representing the school in what they do and say online.

  • Teacher communications with students should be professional and appropriate within the context of the teacher/student relationship.

  • Teachers should treat social media as an extension of the classroom, and should weigh every posting for how it affects their effectiveness as teachers.

  • Employees who use social media for CCPS purposes may NOT include personally identifiable information about a student in any posting made available to anyone who is not legally entitled to the information.

  • Employees may not use inappropriate language, including language deemed to be defamatory, obscene, proprietary, or libelous. Caution must be exercised with regards to exaggeration, inappropriate language, legal conclusions, and derogatory remarks or characterizations.

  • All laws pertaining to copyright and intellectual property must be obeyed.

  • All online communications must be retained according to the Charles County Public Schools Record Retention Rule and can be monitored.

  • Violation of the Superintendent’s Rules may be grounds for discipline up to and including termination as well as a loss of the teacher’s certification.


Privacy and Content:

  • Users must pay close attention to the site's security settings and allow only approved participants access to the site.

  • Employees must adhere to CCPS guidelines when posting student pictures and using student names. Images that include students whose parents have opted out of media exposure should not be posted.
     
  • If an employee learns of information on a social networking site that falls under the mandatory reporting guidelines, they must report it as required by law.


STUDENT USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

  • CCPS may provide access to designated social media sites deemed appropriate for students, solely for instructional purposes, on CCPS computers, tablets, or other mobile devices.  CCPS reserves the right to discontinue access to any designated social media site and/or provide access to additional social media sites as necessary and appropriate for legitimate instructional purposes for students to use. In instances where access to designated CCPS social media sites is provided, CCPS administration shall have access to and may regulate such use.

  • Student misuse of social media may have a negative and/or severe impact on a school learning environment, or risk the safety of staff and students, and shall be addressed by CCPS under the Code of Student Conduct guidelines.

  • Moreover, student use of social media off school grounds having a nexus to, or having an impact on, the normal operations of a school, learning environments, or the safety of students or staff, shall be addressed by CCPS as a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.

  • Students shall not use social media to communicate with specific employees except in cases where such use is regulated and monitored by CCPS administration and the students’ parents/guardians for the purpose of furthering a bona fide CCPS educational initiative.

  • Students and parents/guardians are encouraged to report any improper communication from a CCPS employee to the school principal or other staff member.


REPORTING MISUSE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

  • When an employee becomes aware of an incident that involves the misuse of social media, the staff member shall immediately report the incident to the principal.  If the incident involves the safety or security of a student or staff member, the Charles County Sheriff’s Office may be called.

  • If it is determined that the incident is a direct result of misuse of social media, the school administrator will address the incident according to Code of Student Conduct.

  • The school administrator/designee should be aware that some acts pertaining to the misuse of social media could also be delinquent acts. If they are delinquent acts, they shall be reported promptly to the responsible law enforcement agency.

  • Students, parents/guardians, and staff are encouraged to report the misuse of social media to CCPS administrators.

  • Students who violate any of the rules on social media may be subject to discipline up to and including suspension or expulsion.

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