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School, social media and professional standards.

(35 Posts)
Gertrudeisgerman Tue 10-Jan-17 14:20:34

Does anyone else have experience of their DC's school interacting with and shutting down school related things on FB?

I am part of a mums group set up for social reasons on FB (we went on Christmas parties, going up the pub etc) but it has turned into a bit of weird conduit for the school after the admin of thus FB group ingratiated herself as a member of the staff at school (she's also a parent, think queen bee of alpha mums).

There has been a major H&S issue involving the children and mums have been discussing it on this group & suddenly it has been closed down and a very passive aggressive message sent out by the head on a school letter instructing parents not to discuss things about the school on social media but approach the school instead. I didn't/don't post on the page so it's not a personal axe to grind btw but I'm uncomfortable.

It isn't up to the head to tell people that they shouldn't be posting their opinions about the school on social media is it? Or AIBU? It's seems unhealthy that they expect unquestioning positivity about the school and try to shut down any criticism or concerns from parents who are actually very respectful on the whole. It isn't a dictatorship and if parents want to share their experience and worries of this H&S issue don't they have the freedom of speech to do that? There wasn't any abusive opinions voiced, more annoyance that the school were not taking a particular action.

Personal conduct on FB between parents and staff at the school is odd too. The amount of parents who are entangled in 'working' there, either paid or voluntary is bordering on weird. Parents being 'friends' on FB with their child's class teacher and staff and parents going away on social weekends away etc. Teaching assistants piping up in school related threads also seems to be frequent. AIBU thinking there is a blurring of professional boundaries? If I had these kind of relationships with my service users that I work with (health & social care) my ability to practice objectively would be questioned, no doubt. We have clear guidelines about social media though that I guess education doesn't? AIBU to be concerned?

BigGrannyPants Tue 10-Jan-17 14:28:43

YANBU - sorry I didn't quite get - was this a school website? I am part of my sons school parent council, we have our own Facebook page and the school have no say over what goes on it or what's discussed, maybe that would be the way to go? Generally it works very well in conjunction with the school and we have shared values but if there are issues they can be discussed on the page... the social aspect is really weird. Teachers etc should not be friending parents unless they were actually friends prior to the child going to the school, that is weird! I got on really well with my sons nursery teacher but it never went beyond parent/teacher relationship until my son left nursery, we are still good friends. But no boundaries were crossed while there was a professional relationship

BoboBunnyH0p Tue 10-Jan-17 14:29:48

The school should have a social media policy for staff to follow. Most teachers I know aren't friends with parents and many actively make themselves harder to find by reversing their name or changing the spelling slightly.
Our school do issue a social media letter if the school is named on an fb post and request that you discuss any issues with the school. As long as no names are mentioned by you or anyone commenting then you can say what you like on your own page, a little more difficult in a school parents group because I assume it mentioned the school in the group title.

Gertrudeisgerman Tue 10-Jan-17 14:34:26

No, it wasn't initially set up to be attached to the school in anyway. It was a bunch of mums organising a night out initially and just grew. School name not mentioned in group name. No affiliation to school at all.

I was fully prepared to be told IWBU and to chill out but it just sits...weird with me.

Gertrudeisgerman Tue 10-Jan-17 14:37:29

Just that the admin now works at school (didn't went group first set up) so it feels like it is now a mouthpiece. The group is definitely being seen by head because he phoned one of the parents and pulled her up on one of her criticisms of the school that she wrote on there.

PigletWasPoohsFriend Tue 10-Jan-17 14:37:37

I guess it depends if maybe some things that have been said with regards to the H&S issues are maybe libelous or have legal connotations.

Gertrudeisgerman Tue 10-Jan-17 14:47:11

Yes, that could be true piglet they might be ultra nervous but to be fair to them the H&S issue wasn't initiated by the school. It would take a very bold person to challenge the legality.

HardofCleaning Tue 10-Jan-17 14:54:17

YANBU. I can understand though that as the admin of the group is now officially school staff what would and wouldn't be executable to chat about has somewhat changed.I also don't think it's unusual for schools to make statements about contacting the school with concerns rather than social media as it can lead to large scale moaning and everyone riling themselves up with issues that could be easily resolved if the school was informed.

On the other hand there's nothing stopping someone who isn't school staff setting up a new group and unless it's divulging personal information about individuals or posing a safety issue then you can post what you like. The school can request that you bring complaints to them but can't enforce anything.

NotThrowAwayMyShot Tue 10-Jan-17 14:59:06

It does seem like things are a bit blurred.

Dh is a teacher at ds's school & as a consequence has no parents of her classmates on social media. He will comment occasionally to other parents about non school related things on my page but nothing else.

mouldycheesefan Tue 10-Jan-17 15:02:31

Make it a secret group.
Don't use it to moan about school.
Accept that if people do moan about school on it then any parents in the group who work at the school may report it back to the head. This happened at my school and thr mum who had been slagging off the school on Feb got a call from thr HT about it. One of the other mums had shown thr HT the thread.
So basically, don't say anything you wouldn't want putting in a school noticeboard.
E.g mums night out tomorrow, fine. Teacher is crap, not fine.

christinarossetti Tue 10-Jan-17 15:09:19

I guess if there are parents in the group who also work at the school, they have some sort of duty to inform the school of parents voicing concerns.

A more sensible and professional strategy would be to advise that staff don't get involved in discussing school in any context on social media. If they can't keep their parental role separate from their employment role (which is tricky esp if it's a serious issue like H & S), they should disengage from the group.

But I agree that it shouldn't be up to the Head to tell parents who don't work in the school what they can and can't discuss on social media.

Gertrudeisgerman Tue 10-Jan-17 16:06:07

mouldycheese I'm not sure a blanket ban on talking about school is the right way to approach these things though. I'm not admin on the group & it has been closed down now anyway, so AFAIK that's it. A pretty useful resource to remind people about events, upcoming spelling tests etc has been shut down.

But why shouldn't parents get to discuss school? They were in no way 'slagging off' the school. More voicing slight annoyance that a pretty sensible H&S option (that could have prevented the issue escalating) wasn't applied earlier. I wasn't aware that when you send your child to school, airing concerns was seen as unsupportive and the school have a right to quash people's thoughts and opinions? It seems heavy handed and slightly hypocritical that the school can dictate social media conduct to parents but the staff seem to blur professional standards? I'm only thinking out loud here, as I said. My dc's weren't affected by the H&S issue so it's not personal to me. I just think the school are being a bit odd in their approach I guess.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Tue 10-Jan-17 16:15:52

I don't think the school have the right to stop you discussing school matters on social media (unless you work at the school), but I can totally understand why they asking this. It's bad for the school, and bad for the reputation of the school, and bad for the relationship between school and parents. You see it on MN all the time, someone posts about a minor irritation and in no time at all other posters have elevated it to a ridiculous level of during, or LTB etc

ailPartout Tue 10-Jan-17 16:24:32

You're being far too vague to give you real answers as to if you should be concerned.

I don't for a second think it's unreasonable to try to shut down bitching "more annoyance that the school were not taking a particular action". Do any of the commentators have perfect knowledge of whatever H&S issue occurred or is there a lot of gossip and 2nd hand information being bandied around. The sort that never has a positive effect. Libel laws could even be applicable. I think that a head appealing to parents to approach them directly instead of worthless moaning on social media is both reasonable and sensible.

Why do you have the word 'working' in inverted commas? Do you feel that they don't perform a worthwhile role at the school?

"staff and parents going away on social weekends away"

Should this be banned?

"Teaching assistants piping up in school related threads also seems to be frequent."

You mean on this special facebook page? Are these TAs also these ones who are entanged as they have children at the school. As long as they aren't revealing sensitive information, there isn't much a head could do beyond a friendly pointer as to what kind of conduct can make their professional life simpler or easier.

itsmine Tue 10-Jan-17 16:26:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

user1480946351 Tue 10-Jan-17 16:30:14

The school has no legal right to stop you talking about them though. They like to think they can control these things, but they can't.

ailPartout Tue 10-Jan-17 16:36:06

The school has no legal right to stop you talking about them though.

That depends on what you're saying about them.

Birdsgottafly Tue 10-Jan-17 16:38:56

The person who set up the page, can close it down.

""The amount of parents who are entangled in 'working' there, either paid or voluntary is bordering on weird.""

Ideally in every school there would be two Parents/GPS/Carers in every class, volunteering. So that ain't weird, at all.

Some people use it on a future CV, as a reference, or as experience, to get on other courses.

If that's the case for the person whose started the page, then they want to behave as though they are a professional.

They Head may have been directing her comments at those that do volunteer/are associated with the school. They can carry on gossiping, but not whilst being on the Team.

You could quite easily start a new page.

pho3be Tue 10-Jan-17 16:40:01

Our school asks us not to discuss issues on social media - we had to sign an agreement.
I don't mind i think its sensible - things get out of hand, gossipy and reputations tarnished because people happily type away things they'd never say IRL

PigletWasPoohsFriend Tue 10-Jan-17 16:40:42

The school has no legal right to stop you talking about them though.

Actually yes they do, depending on what it is you are talking about.

Birdsgottafly Tue 10-Jan-17 16:43:01

""So that ain't weird at all"

Isn't, obviously, don't know we're that came from.

Gertrudeisgerman Tue 10-Jan-17 16:57:45

The person who set it up, who now works there, has shut down the page. Which is fair enough, it's her job.

And to the poster who said don't I value those who work there because I put quotations round 'working' I meant I don't know who is paid/volunteer staff so 'working' was a catch all for them.

I am definitively stating I am NOT saying parents should have FB groups so that they get to slag off the school. My original point wasn't to say 'We should be allowed to gossip/slag people off/bitch etc without prejudice'. I don't even post on the stupid thing FFS! What I do take issue with is HT thinking they can dictate/censor parents on social media by shutting down pages by proxy. But I'm happy to take on board that AIBU & got the wrong end of the stick about it because I know I can be a contrary bastard who doesn't like being told what I can/can't say grin.

user1480946351 Tue 10-Jan-17 17:05:55

That depends on what you're saying about them

Not really. In a closed group, you can say pretty much what you like. And even if they had grounds for libel, that would be a very expensive civil court case.
Never gonna happen.

Like I said, they can do bugger all.

cherrycrumblecustard Tue 10-Jan-17 17:07:21

I don't think op was vague at all, it was clear as water.

And I wouldn't be comfortable with it either.

ailPartout Tue 10-Jan-17 17:22:38

user1480946351

no

I followed the linked case with interest at the time.

"Making defamatory comments, even to a private group of friends on Facebook, has been proven not to be a bar to a successful claim in defamation."

This doesn't sound like what's going on here but "in a closed group you can say pretty much what you'd like" is bollocks of the highest order. Unions would support you in legal fees even in a civil case so that hold no water either.

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