Employment Law

Can Teachers be Fired for Social Media Posts?

Every employer has their own rules and if you agree to work there, must be aware of them and respect each of those policies.

Social Media, or the way in which information is created, shared, and expressed across virtual platforms, dates back to the 1970s. It has since then expanded drastically. We are currently living in a world where social media has become not only a popular tool to network or stay in touch but provide a means of advertising while influencing billions of people, both positively and negatively. 

The number of users far exceeds 100 billion people across platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and many more. We, as a society, see more references to social media every day in almost every aspect of our lives. If not monitored properly, social media has the potential to create some serious problems. This leads to many questions specifically, involving our educators. Can teachers be fired for social media posts? 

10 Social Media Rules for Teachers

According to 10 Social Media Rules for Teachers, “An estimated 74% of Americans over the age of 18 use social networking websites.” It is no surprise that the percentage is so high with the ever-growing popularity of social media trends being so accessible for all ages. It is important to note that included in that 74% no one is overlooked, especially our educators. More and more in the news, we see teachers being disciplined for their tweets, status updates, and Instagram photos. This no doubt and understandably so leaves educators anxious when using social media. The fear regarding their employment status takes high priority.   

As an educator, are there any ways to help protect yourself and your employment?

As grim as the news stories may sound, there are ways in which you can protect yourself from potential backlash and even termination. You have to be careful and mindful of a few concepts.

Do your research and know your place of employment. Every school has its policies and guidelines. Become familiar and adhere to those rules. Some may involve, posting pictures or status updates. Protect yourself and know the ins and outs of your school’s employment policies.

Refrain from “following” or “friending” your students. Devise a rule that your students can only follow or friend you after they graduate. This will eliminate any potential consequences you may fall victim to from your school. If you are not sure how to protect yourself on social media from students trying to connect with you- learn each platform’s privacy terms. For instance, you can block certain people or set your privacy to strict levels. 

Be mindful of any pictures you upload. Keep them clean and free from alcohol, drugs, or anything that could be misconstrued as taken out of context. Regardless of whether or not your profile is set to the highest privacy, your profile picture is still visible to anyone who searches you. 

On social media, most platforms allow you to fill out an “about me” section. This includes your place of employment, schools you attended, relationship status, family members, etc. In the employment section, if you wish to fill out, do not affiliate yourself with your school. If you must or choose to, list your employment as “Teacher at …County Schools. 

Or, simply skip filling out that section all together. This goes directly in hand with never mentioning your school in any post. Doing so would enable your post to be found through search engines, even if you set your privacy. Never ‘tag” or “geo tag” your posts to your school. Students searching will be lead right to your posts or profile. 

This should go without saying, but never complain about your job online. No matter if you are followed or friends with co-workers or not. This should be implemented for all jobs- not just teachers. 

Lastly, never ever post photos of your students on social media. Parents have all different beliefs and values. Some may overshare or not see the harm in posting about their children, while others are much more private and stricter with their children online. Don’t assume every parent agrees or holds the same ideas as you. You don’t ever want to put yourself in a situation that could have been avoided by following the rules that could ultimately lead to severe discipline or termination.   

The verdict

To answer the question above, “can teachers be fired for social media posts?” The short answer is yes. Every employer has their own rules and if you agree to work there, must be aware of them and respect each of those policies. Whether you want to believe it or not, or feel differently, that is fine, but just know if all comes down to your employer. If you have to, or it softens the blow a little easier, think of it this way; when it comes to your own home do you have certain standards you expect your guests to follow?             

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