While social networking sites become ever more prevalent in today’s society, school administrators face a balancing act between appropriate behavior and their free speech when trying to deal with cyber-bulling and how they appear as out-of-school role models.
However, Janet Decker, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor in UC’s Educational Leadership Program, has found that a large number of educators have been fired for Internet activity, including behavior such as posting a picture of themselves holding a glass of wine.
“Despite the evolving issues, the courts have not provided extensive guidance for administrators.
“Part of the difficulty is that technology advances at a quicker pace than legal precedent, leaving school employees and administrators unsure of their legal responsibilities.”
Decker believes that many policies on social networking are “not clear or effective” when dealing with sexual harassment or abuse of students and freedom of speech for public employees and their privacy.
Decker believes that school administrators should offer professional development about these issues.
“By doing so, staff is notified about the expectations and they have a chance to digest and ask questions about the content of the policies.
“In general, it is important to understand that school employees are expected to be role models both inside and outside of school – even while on Facebook,” she writes.
It isn’t just school staff that should be concerned about their social networking activity, either. According to SafetyWeb, 38% of college admissions directors admit that what they saw on applicant’s social profiles “negatively affected” their views of the applicant.
But surely, aren’t admissions officers too busy to care about Facebook profiles? U.S. News asks the experts if Facebook posts could really lead to college rejections.
Steve Loflin, founder and CEO of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, said:
“Colleges are receiving more applications than ever and it is competitive to get a spot.
“Knowing that, you should put your energy and effort into making sure you are academically prepared and submitting the strongest application possible. When it comes to Facebook, be smart about your privacy settings and you can control exactly who has access.”
Michele Hernandez, president and founder of Hernandez College Consulting, added:
“Though it’s not the norm for admissions officers to actively search out information on a student, they could, especially if there were any warning signs from recommendation letters or any other school information. Admissions officers want students who are upstanding citizens in every way—a salacious Facebook page would be counter to what they are looking for.”
However, Katherine Cohen, founder and CEO of IvyWise and ApplyWise.com, believes that if an admissions officer was inclined to search your profile, it might not always be a bad thing.
“You can use the Internet to express yourself and show admissions committees your passion. If you’re a photographer or artist, post pictures. Musicians, start a MySpace page devoted to your music.”