As you consider participating in social media, you should consider what platform would best help you reach your goals. MCPS provides many online tools, including the myMCPS parent/student portal and Google Apps for Education, among others. If an MCPS tool exists to communicate with your class and your students’ parents, it is expected that you use it when applicable. Only use non-MCPS tools if a different approach is demonstrably necessary. For instance, if teachers would like to communicate with the students in their class, they should use an available MCPS tool; if they want to communicate with the broader school community or engage in professional development online, there may be grounds to use an external social media channel like Twitter or Facebook. Or, for instance, if an athletic coach would like to share scores or updates from games with the broader school community, there may be grounds to use a tool like Twitter or Facebook. For assistance in determining what tools are available to you, contact the Department of Technology Integration and Support.
Notifying Supervisors and Parents/Guardians
MCPS employees should notify their supervisor before establishing a professional social media account. In addition, let your supervisor know about any existing professional social media accounts not previously reported. Please remember that you are individually responsible for all of the content that you upload, post, or make available online. Additionally, please remember that employees have a limited expectation of privacy in regards to professional social media use.
If an employee has established or proposed to establish a school- or department-level account, a principal or supervisor should also have the account’s login credentials. Supervisors who have professional social media accounts are encouraged to follow their employees’ professional accounts.
MCPS supervisors and other designated MCPS personnel have the right to audit professional social media and online activity. Additionally, MCPS supervisors can request that posts and/or accounts be deleted if they do not adhere to the law or MCPS rules; employees who do not adhere to the law or MCPS rules may be subject to progressive discipline.
Parents/guardians of students must be notified in advance about any new social media activities in which their children will be asked to participate. That notification can occur in the same manner that schools communicate with families about other classroom and school activities. Employees also must review the social media site’s regulations and determine at what age children are allowed to use it.
Setting up Your Professional Social Media Account
Always use an MCPS email address to create professional social media accounts. Never use your personal email address. MCPS employees should ensure that any professional social media accounts include clearly stated language to differentiate them from personal accounts. If your department, office, or school has a social media account, the name of the department, office, or school should be part of the username and/or handle, instead of the name of the individual posting. If you have an individual professional social media account, it should be clear that the account is yours and that you are not speaking on behalf of MCPS. Existing professional social media account names or descriptions that do not clearly identify the professional purpose of the account should be amended as soon as possible. For example, an Instagram account named @mrjohnson_tenthgradeclass with an account description stating, “Created by Mr. Johnson/Posts are my own” is acceptable. But an Instagram account named @samjohnson could lead a user to believe the account is Mr. Johnson’s personal Instagram account. If you need additional guidance, contact the MCPS Department of Public Information and Web Services for assistance.
Appropriate Name for a Professional Social Media Account:
Maintaining the Privacy and Security of Social Media Accounts
Employees are responsible for understanding the rules, terms, and privacy settings of the social media sites they are using. Appropriate privacy settings should be used on professional social media accounts. However, keep in mind that nothing online is truly private. Even if privacy settings are set properly, anyone that you allow to see your profile can copy and paste text and send it to someone else. Even if you delete information, it still may be stored on a website's server for a longer period of time.
You are also responsible for maintaining the security of the social media accounts that you use, and you are fully responsible for all activities that occur under your password or account. Make sure to create strong passwords and protect them; immediately notify your supervisor of any unauthorized use of your password or account or any other breach of security, and log out of your account at the end of each session.
Posting to Social Media
You’re encouraged to use MCPS computers or other professional devices to update professional accounts. Use good judgment when posting to social media accounts. Treat your professional social media account like an extension of your workplace. Be respectful of diverse opinions and beliefs of other employees, parents/guardians and others in the school community. Consider how you would feel if what you posted was published on the front page of The Washington Post or its website, for instance, or went viral. Keep in mind that the same rules apply when sharing other people’s content, including retweeting and sharing links, so it is important to think critically when determining what to share.
MCPS employees are prohibited from disclosing, through posts on social media sites or by any other means, any confidential information obtained in their work duties, including any personally identifiable information about students or their families, as well as personnel records.
Consider your posting frequency. While it is important to keep social media accounts updated, if you are posting all the time, are you performing your job effectively?
For student privacy reasons, MCPS employees should avoid posting images where students are individually identifiable in a classroom setting. For instance, consider using images of students’ hands or backs of their heads to illustrate a classroom activity. Videos or photos that depict students’ faces are more appropriate if they are from a sporting event, performance, or other event open to the school community, but you should still be sensitive to student privacy and mindful of what you post. When in doubt, ask. Additionally, it is important to ask permission before posting photos of colleagues online because that is something not everyone is comfortable with.
Avoid posting images where students are individually identifiable in a classroom setting.
MCPS employees should not “tag” photos of MCPS students, parents/guardians, other employees, volunteers, or contractors without the prior permission of the individuals being tagged. MCPS employees should not identify specific student populations (e.g., special education students) when tagging or captioning photos. MCPS reserves the right to remove postings and/or disable access from the MCPS network to any social media site.
Examples Deserving Special Attention
Always remember that the entire MCPS Employee Code of Conduct applies to your social media use, but some examples deserve special attention when you post online:
- Do not engage in conduct that endangers or threatens the safety of students, employees, parents/guardians, or the public.
- Do not discriminate against students, parents/guardians, coworkers, supervisors, or other citizens based on race, ethnicity, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, immigration status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, family/parental status, marital status, age, physical or mental disability, poverty and socioeconomic status, language, or other legally or constitutionally protected attributes or affiliations.
- Do not bully, harass, or intimidate students, parents/guardians, coworkers, or other adults.
- Do not engage in abuse or neglect of any child or vulnerable adult, including grooming behaviors through which an adult or a person in a position of authority builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of exploitation or other abuse.
- Do not engage or attempt to engage in a romantic or sexual relationship with an MCPS student, regardless of the age of the student.
- Do not show pornography to MCPS students, or involve children in or with pornography.
- Do not introduce, view, or distribute pornography on MCPS property or at any MCPS activity.
- Limit e-mail, social media, text messages, messaging apps, and other electronic communications with students to appropriate purposes directly related to instruction or your MCPS work responsibilities.
- Do not have one-on-one interactions with MCPS students through social media, e-mail, text messages, messaging apps, or other electronic communication about subjects not directly related to instruction or your MCPS work responsibilities. Communication with students via temporary or anonymous messaging apps, is prohibited.
- Do not use personal e-mail accounts, social media networking sites, text messages, messaging apps, or other electronic communications to communicate or become “friends” with students.
MCPS employees should report incidents of misconduct that occur on social media. Some examples include child abuse and neglect, illegal activity, online bullying, harassment, and/or intimidation by another MCPS employee or any other individual regarding or affecting their MCPS employment. Additionally, if MCPS employees see incidents of student bullying, they should report them through the process set forth in Regulation JHF-RA, Student Bullying, Intimidation and Harassment.
If you receive press inquiries regarding MCPS via social media, refer them to the Department of Communications (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Best Practices for Personal Social Media
Employees should also exercise caution and good judgment when using personal social media. The line between professional and personal is often blurred in the digital world. If you identify yourself as an MCPS employee on your personal accounts, you should ensure that your profile and related content are consistent with how you wish to present yourself to colleagues, parents, and students.
Think about how postings you share on social media may be interpreted by colleagues or the greater community. Ask yourself what type of image you would like to have, and would like your school or office to have, in a larger context.
Personal social media use has the potential to result in disruption at school or the workplace and can be in violation of MCPS rules, and therefore could be subject to progressive discipline. For instance, employees cannot bully, harass, or intimidate colleagues or students on their personal social media accounts.
Do not “friend” parents or students on personal accounts, and do not post images of students on personal accounts.
Do not use the MCPS network to make personal social media posts during the work duty day. In addition, MCPS employees are encouraged to use appropriate privacy settings to control access to their personal social media sites.
MCPS employees are prohibited from making representations on their personal social media accounts or sites that they speak (or could cause a reader to believe the employee is speaking) in an official MCPS capacity. This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, using MCPS school logos or mascots or attributing content to MCPS. However, automatically populated MCPS logos on social media sites, such as LinkedIn, are permitted.