Published on - 26-10-2015
This document should be read in conjunction with information contained in the Policy on Staff Acceptable Use of ICT and on the County Council’s “E-safety in Hampshire” webpage at www.hants.gov.uk/esafety, together with the Council’s “Guidance on using Social Media” and other related policy documents referred to at Appendix 1 below.
The policy has been developed having regard to guidance provided by the professional associations for teachers and school leaders, other recognised trade unions, and by ACAS. It sets out the rules and standards to be applied for use of the Internet and social media in Hampshire schools. It provides information and guidance for both professional and personal use and outlines the risks to users and schools, as well as the potential consequences of misuse of the Internet and social media.
It is recognised that social networking has the potential to play an important part in many aspects of school life, including teaching and learning, external communications and continuing professional development. This policy therefore encourages the responsible and professional use of the Internet and social media to support educational delivery and professional development.
The Internet provides an increasing range of social media tools that allow users to interact with each other. Whilst recognising the important benefits of these media for new opportunities for communication, this policy sets out the principles that school staff, governors and contractors are required to follow when using social media.
It is essential that students, parents and the public at large have confidence in the school’s decisions and services. The principles set out in this policy are designed to ensure that staff members use social media responsibly so that confidentiality of students and staff members and the reputation of the school and the County Council are safeguarded. In this context, staff members must be conscious at all times of the need to keep their personal and professional lives separate.
The primary objective of this policy is to set out the responsibilities of staff, governors and contractors at the school who use the Internet and social networking sites. It is also aimed at ensuring that the Internet and social media are utilised safely, lawfully and effectively for the successful and economic delivery of school-based services.
This policy applies to the school governing body, all teaching and other staff, whether employed by the County Council or employed directly by the school, external contractors providing services on behalf of the school or the County Council, teacher trainees and other trainees, volunteers and other individuals who work for or provide services on behalf of the school. These individuals are collectively referred to in this policy as staff or staff members.
The policy covers personal use of social media as well as the use of social media for official school purposes, including sites hosted and maintained on behalf of the school. It is acknowledged that there is significant potential for the school to exploit the Internet and social media and that this can bring great advantages. The use of both the Internet and social media is therefore actively encouraged.
The policy applies to personal webspace such as social networking sites (for example Facebook, MySpace, Yapper), blogs, microblogs such as Twitter, chatrooms, forums, podcasts, open access online encyclopaedias such as Wikipedia, social bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us and content sharing sites such as flickr and YouTube. The internet is a fast moving technology and it is impossible to cover all circumstances or emerging media - the principles set out in this policy must be followed irrespective of the medium.
This policy provides a structured approach to using the Internet and social media and will ensure that it is effective, lawful and does not compromise the school’s reputation, school information or computer systems/networks.
The school recognises the risks associated with use of the Internet and social media and regulates their use to ensure this does not damage the school, its staff and the people it serves. Principal amongst these risks are:
6. Applying the Policy
a. Responsibilities of staff members
The following principles apply to online participation and set out the standards of behaviour expected of staff members as representatives of the School.
The School has a duty to provide a safe working environment free from bullying and harassment. If a staff member uses any information and/or communications technology, including email and social networking sites, to make reference to people working at or for the School, or people receiving services from the School then any information posted must comply with all relevant professional Codes of Practice and the School’s ICT Acceptable Use Policy.
b. Using the Internet and social media for approved school purposes
Staff must ensure that they use the Internet sensibly, responsibly and lawfully and that use of the Internet and social media does not compromise school information or computer systems and networks. They must ensure that their use will not adversely affect the school or its business, nor be damaging to the school's reputation and credibility or otherwise violate any school policies. In particular:
c. Personal use of Internet and social media
The school’s Internet connection is intended primarily for educational use. There is no right for staff to use the Internet for private use and access can be withdrawn at any time. Where staff members are permitted access via the school’s Internet connection:
d. School reputation and confidentiality
The school recognises an employee’s right to a private life. However the school must also ensure its reputation and confidentiality are protected. Therefore an employee using any ICT away from school, including email and social networking sites must:
e. Personal Information
School staff must never give out personal details of others, such as home address and telephone numbers. Staff must handle all personal or sensitive information in line with the school’s Data Protection Policies.
With the rise in identity theft and fraud, staff may wish to consider the amount of personal information that they display on personal profiles.
7. Cyber bullying and Harassment
a. The use of ICT in relation to Bullying and Harassment
This section should be read in conjunction with the guidance contained in "Cyber-bullying: Practical Advice for School Staff". Cyber Bullying and Cyber Harassment, like other forms of bullying and harassment, imply a relationship where an individual has some influence or advantage that is used improperly over another person or persons, where the victim(s) is subjected to a disadvantage or detriment, and where the behaviour is unwarranted and unwelcome to the victim. However, in this case the technological environment has meant that the acts of bullying and harassment now include the use of information and communications technology including email and social networking.
The school will consider it a potential disciplinary matter if users utilise any information and communications technology, including email and social networking sites, in such a way as to bully/harass others in the school or in partner organisations, or students or parents, whether this takes place during or outside of work. Staff members need to be aware that no matter what the privacy settings on their social media/networking site, inappropriate/derogatory information about a colleague in the school or partner organisations, students or parents, can find its way into the public domain even when not intended.
It should be noted that a person does not need to directly experience this form of victimisation in order for it to be classed as cyber bullying/harassment. The fact that a person is unaware that offensive or derogatory comments about them have been placed on websites still fits the criteria of cyber bullying/harassment.
If a staff member receives any threats, abuse or harassment from members of the public through their use of social media then they must report such incidents using the school’s procedures.
b. Senior Leadership responsibility in relation to Bullying and Harassment
The school owes a duty to take reasonable steps to provide a safe working environment free from bullying and harassment.
For this reason, it is essential that the Senior Leadership Team take appropriate steps to deal with any incident where it is alleged that a staff member has subjected others to abusive or personally offensive emails, phone calls or content on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or by any other means.
If a Senior Leader is made aware of such an allegation, the Senior Leadership Team should deal with it in the same way as any other incident of bullying or harassment in line with school policies, by investigating the allegations promptly and appropriately and providing the victim with appropriate support to demonstrate that the matter is being dealt with seriously.
Senior Leaders should encourage staff to preserve all evidence by not deleting emails, logging phone calls and taking screen-prints of websites. If the incident involves illegal content or contains threats of a physical or sexual nature, the Senior Leadership team should consider advising the employee that they should inform the police. In the event that such evidence contains indecent images of children, it is an offence to save, send, or alter an image or to show it to anyone else. Therefore, the evidence must be placed in a secure location such as a locked cupboard where others will not be able to see it. In these circumstances the Police should be contacted immediately for advice.
8.1 It will be normal practice for staff to read and sign a declaration as outlined in Appendix 2, to confirm that they have had access to the School Social Media Policy and that they accept and will follow its terms.
8.2 Staff must comply with the terms of this policy. Any breach will be considered to be a breach of disciplinary rules, which may lead to a disciplinary sanction (e.g. warning), dismissal, and/or withdrawal of access to ICT facilities. Staff should be aware, that in certain instances, inappropriate use of Social Media may become a matter for police or social care investigations.
Appendix 1: 43. Social Media Policy
Legal and Policy Framework
The School is committed to ensuring that all staff members provide confidential services that meet the highest standards. All individuals working on behalf of the school are bound by a legal duty of confidence and other laws to protect the confidential information they have access to during the course of their work. Disclosure of confidential information on social media is likely to be a breach of a number of laws and professional Codes of Conduct, including the following:
o Human Rights Act 1998
o Common law duty of confidentiality
o Data Protection Act 1998, and
o Employment Practices Data Protection Code
Confidential information includes, but is not limited to:
o Person-identifiable information, e.g. pupil and employee records protected by the Data Protection Act 1998
o Information divulged in the expectation of confidentiality
o School or County Council business or corporate records containing organisationally or publicly sensitive information
o Any commercially sensitive information such as information relating to commercial proposals or current negotiations, and
o Politically sensitive information.
Staff members should also be aware that other laws relating to libel, defamation, harassment and copyright may apply to information posted on social media, including:
o Libel Act 1843
o Defamation Acts 1952, 1996 and 2013
o Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
o Protection from Harassment Act 1997
o Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
o Malicious Communications Act 1998
o Communications Act 2003, and
o Equality Act 2010
The Social Media policy should be read in conjunction with other relevant school and County Council policies, procedures and Codes of Conduct including:
o County Council Guidance on using Social Media
o IT Policy on email and internet use
o IT acceptable usage standards
o ICT Acceptable Use Policy for Staff
o Internet and Intranet Monitoring Policy
o Cyber bullying: Practical Advice for School Staff
o Disciplinary Procedures
o Equalities Policy
Policy Reviewed: October 2015
Policy Ratified: October 2015
Next Review: October 2016
Approved by Headteacher / Chair of Governors:
Appendix 2: 43. Social Media Policy
I have read and understand the School Social Media Policy and understand that inappropriate use may be considered to be misconduct or gross misconduct and may, after proper investigation, lead to a disciplinary sanction or dismissal.
I understand that, in certain circumstances, inappropriate use of Social Media may become a matter for police or social care investigations.
I understand that if I need any clarification regarding my use of Social Media, I can seek such clarification from any member of the Senior Leadership Team.
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