Frederick County Public Schools is working on a social media policy for its employees.
A draft policy and regulation aim to provide guidelines to Frederick County Public Schools employees on how to conduct themselves on social media.
The policy, which has received a first reading by the Board of Education, and its accompanying regulation would make the professional social media accounts of teachers property of the school system.
Employees would not be allowed to merge their personal and professional social media accounts under the policy. And any teacher with a professional account who leaves the school system would be expected to hand the account over to the employer so the account could be passed on to the successor or deleted.
Many teachers have one Twitter account that is both personal and professional, which is something FCPS staff wants to change.
“The notion behind a personal Twitter and a professional Twitter is that says to our staff ‘keep it separate,’” Superintendent Terry Alban said last month.
Alban added that FCPS will monitor professional FCPS employee accounts and reserves the right to exercise editorial control, and delete posts if needed.
FCPS Communications Director Michael Doerrer said the new policy and regulation “is not in response to any specific incident,” but meant to provide best practices for employees to be conscious of and think about.
“The fact that the school system needs it now is because of the growth of social media,” Doerrer said Thursday.
The policy and regulation also state that employees are not to follow or become friends with students on social media through their personal accounts.
Students can become friends or follow a teacher on a professional account, though, Doerrer said.
“It’s important for all employees to maintain the line between personal and professional,” Doerrer said. Following or becoming friends with students on “the personal account is just not appropriate.”
Will Anderson, the student member to the Board of Education, questioned if teachers should be prevented from friending students on social media, equating it to teachers and students seeing one another in public and striking up a conversation.
Alban said that 90 percent of teachers could befriend a student on a personal account and know where to draw the line.
“But sometimes there’s a loss of judgment and serious issues are created,” Alban said. “We, as an organization, if we are committed to the safety of our students, have to give staff guidance — because we’ve seen instances where people don’t know how to put up that boundary.”
The school system already has policies regarding how students are expected to behave on social media, so there is little effect on students in the drafted policy and regulation being considered.
The one exception is a part of the policy/regulation that states that teachers can use social media for instructional purposes, and if they do, students are expected to know the rules and abide by them while using the social media platform in class.
Teachers who do maintain both personal and professional accounts will have to exercise judgment regarding what constitutes professional content to post on social media accounts, Doerrer said.
“There’s hundreds of different scenarios,” Doerrer said. “We’re just asking teachers to be mindful of what belongs on a personal account and what belongs on a professional account.”
Doerrer added that if and when the policy and regulation are passed, employees will receive training about how to implement them. Doerrer said he would expect that training to happen in the summer.