On any given day, there are news stories of someone who is being investigated or terminated for unauthorized use of a district computer or because of questionable comments or pictures on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Using sound judgment will allow you to use technology without jeopardizing your career or your reputation.
What are my rights?
You have the right to belong to a social networking site and to express your ideas. The Supreme Court has ruled that if public employees are speaking as citizens about matters of public concern, they face only those restrictions necessary for the employer to operate efficiently. You are protected if your speech does not interfere with the school district’s operations or with your duties.
Can I use my district computer for personal use?
We recommend that you be careful anytime you use your district computer for personal use. The computers can and may be monitored by the district. Please do not surf the web during instructional time. The district’s server will keep a record which will include the date, time, and what sites you visit.
Even if you visit websites on your duty-free lunch or after hours, the computer will store everything. Deleting an item does not mean it is gone forever. There are programs that can recover your search history or the contents of your hard drive, even after they have been deleted.
We also recommend that you never loan your district computer to anyone. We have seen cases where teachers have loaned their computers out and had inappropriate material downloaded to it without their knowledge.
Protect your password. If you do not have a secure password, ask for a new one from your administrator. Do not give your password to any person, including that most trusted student or another teacher. Do not leave your computer running without password protection so that another person can work on your computer. You are responsible for everything done on your computer.
Are my emails from my district computer subject to open records?
Yes. Do not use the district’s email system to send out anything that you do not want to see on the front page of the newspaper or discussed before the school board.. Always be professional in emails about colleagues, supervisors, parents, or students. Parents can and may get access to all your emails if they wish.
What about Facebook, Twitter or other social media pages?
Write as if everyone can read it because they will. If your comments are hurtful or embarrassing to colleagues, supervisors, parents, or students, don’t post it. This mistake alone often leads to severe employment consequences. When in doubt, always err on the side of caution.
Never post anything related to your duties as a district employee. It is best not to even identify your school or school district on your personal page. Never provide any intimate or revealing information about yourself or others on your page. This could hinder your ability to be an effective teacher if students were to obtain the information. They will find the information if it is there.
Never post questionable photos, even if it is a legal activity. Please remember to check photos of you that others post. On many sites, another individual can “tag” you in a photo without permission and it will end up on your site. That picture of you and your family over the holidays may be okay. The one of you on Spring Break in Cancun probably isn’t.
Never “friend” students, parents, colleagues, or supervisors on your private page. This tends to blur the boundaries of professional versus private communications and could be a violation of the Educators Code of Ethics.
If you maintain a separate page for your students for posting of assignments or homework discussions, invite their parents and your campus administration to join. Never discuss anything but assignments or tests on this page. Be sure to check your privacy settings often.
What can happen to me?
School employees are subject to investigation, placement on administrative leave, and punishment, up to and including termination, if inappropriate material is found on their district computer or on a social media page. This includes material that was posted, downloaded, or visited after work hours or on a duty-free period.