5.125 - Electronic Communication and Social Media

Electronic Communication & Social Media

Community High School District No. 230 recognizes that we live in a society that is highly focused on the use of digital communication tools and that employees use such tools for both personal and professional communications.  The District recognizes that electronic communication and social media may be useful tools for staff/student communication about educational matters.  Although the rise of new media and communication tools creates new opportunities for communication and collaboration, it also creates new responsibilities for District employees. The use of electronic communication and social media is acceptable for legitimate educational reasons or school business purposes, provided employees follow the guidelines/procedures for appropriate use. 

The District encourages employees to utilize electronic communication and social media to communicate with students, parents and colleagues when such communication meets the following requirements: (1) the communication augments the District’s educational programs; (2) the communication is for a legitimate educational reason or school business purpose; and (3) employees utilize District equipment or the District’s network to send the communication that is appropriate as defined by policy 5:20, Workplace Harassment Prohibited; 5:100, Staff Development Program; 5:120, Ethics and Conduct; 6:235, Access to Electronic Networks; 7:20, Harassment of Students Prohibited; and the Ill. Code of Educator Ethics, 23 Ill.Admin.Code §22.20.

The District does not discourage employees from utilizing electronic communication and social media for personal communications provided that such personal communications are not made: (1) using District equipment, (2) using the District’s electronic network; and (3) while on duty.

The Superintendent or designee shall create and manage the guidelines/procedures for electronic communications and social networking.

Electronic Communication and Social Media Procedures and Guidelines


Includes - Means “includes without limitation” or “includes, but is not limited to.”

Electronic Communication – Forms of electronic communication include, but are not limited to, communication via telephone, text messaging, electronic mail, facsimile, instant messaging, web posts, and social media sites.

Personal technology - Any device that is not owned or leased by the District or otherwise authorized for District use and: (1) transmits sounds, images, text, messages, videos, or electronic information, (2) electronically records, plays, or stores information, or (3) accesses the Internet, or private communication or information networks.   This includes smartphones such as BlackBerry®, android®, iPhone®, and other devices, such as, iPads® and iPods®.  

Social media - Media for social interaction, using highly accessible communication techniques through the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.   This includes, but is not limited to: Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, Twitter, Xanga, Yahoo Groups, iGoogle, Wikipedia and other wikis, and YouTube. 

Web Posts - A message or text published in an online forum, including internet websites, social media sites, blogs, or newsgroups.

District-Sponsored Electronic Communications/Social Media Use

Employees have the responsibility of maintaining an appropriate employee-student relationship at all times. Employees who choose to utilize electronic communication and social media to communicate with students and parents may do so provided such communication is made as part of their official duties and for a legitimate educational reason or school business purpose. These communications must comply with the following requirements:

  1. Employees must use either District issued e-mail accounts or a district supported communication tool (ie-student information system, learning management system or text message software when communicating with students and parents via e-mail. When communicating with students, employees must utilize the students’ District issued email accounts. Employees may not communicate with students via direct text messaging, social media websites (not including school-sponsored websites or blogs, as discussed below) or private email.
  2. Employees may decide to create a social media website or platform for their class, extracurricular activity or sport.  In the event an employee determines that such a social media website or platform would augment their class or program and has a legitimate educational purpose, the employee must obtain prior written approval from their Building Principal or designee by submitting the Social Media Request Form. The Social Media Request Form requires employees to: (1) identify the class or extracurricular activity; (2) identify the preferred social media platform (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.); and (3) provide a narrative on the purpose of the social media website.  After the Social Media Request Form is approved by the Building Principal or designee, the employee must provide the web address to the Building Principal and Director of Technology. This approval process does not apply to websites/pages created on the District’s student management system, Canvas.
  3. The District acknowledges that employees may have personal relationships with students and parents outside of the scope of their employment (e.g. relatives, community activities, etc.). Employees who choose to utilize their personal electronic communication and/or social media accounts to communicate with students and parents due to a personal relationship with the student/parent, shall notify their Building Principal of the relationship.  
  4. Employees’ electronic or social media communication should not disclose to anyone information that is confidential or proprietary to the District or to any third party, including, but not limited to, information contained in student records.
  5. Electronic communication or social media should not contain defamatory, harassing, confidential, unlawful or otherwise inappropriate information as determined by the administration, or that contain copyrighted information (music, videos, text, etc.) without proper permission are prohibited under this policy.
  6. The Board or District administration may require that employees avoid certain subjects in communication or remove certain web posts on District-sponsored sites if it determines that the electronic communication, web post or social media: (1) violates applicable laws; or (2) violates the rights of students/parents or other employees or Board members.
  7.  Any employee who does not utilize District equipment and/or the District’s electronic network to communicate with students and/or parents, it will be presumed that such communication is not for a legitimate educational reason or for a school business purpose in violation of these requirements.
  8. When using District technology or accessing the District electronic network, including its web server, employees are also subject to Board Policy 6:235, Acceptable Use of Technology Policy.

Personal Electronic Communications/Social Media Use

The District recognizes that some employees may maintain personal blogs, websites, and social media accounts and/or contribute posts to the blogs or websites or web pages of others and/or participate in social networking sites. The District does not discourage its employees from maintaining a private, online presence. However, as discussed above, employees are discouraged from communicating with students and parents via personal communications/social media or personal websites. Employees who participate in these personal activities must abide at all times with all legal requirements including compliance with student privacy laws.

Additionally, employees are prohibited from utilizing, posting or accessing personal email, social media sites, blogs or websites while they are on duty for the District.

Employees are encouraged to adhere to the following guidelines in their personal electronic communications or social media use:


  1. If an employee has a presence on social media, employees should use the highest level of privacy tools available to control access to the employee’s personal activity. However, even with these privacy settings, employees must remember that someone could hack those tools and make private posts public. In addition, social media sites can change their privacy policies and standards at any time, putting posts that users thought were private in the public domain. 
  2. Employees should not disclose student record information including student work, photographs of students or any other personally identifiable information about students in private email communications, social media accounts, websites or web posts.
  3. Employees should refrain from posting defamatory, confidential, libelous, or slanderous comments about the District, its employees, students or parents.  When posting information or comments related to District business or District-sponsored activity, employees should make it clear to readers that the views expressed on web posts are the employee’s and that they do not necessarily reflect the views of the District or the Board.
  4. Employees should refrain from posting copyrighted information.
  5. Unless authorized by the Superintendent or his/her designee, personal web posts shall not include the District’s logos, mascots, symbols, or other insignias. 
  6. Employees should ensure that profiles and related content (even if the information is of a personal and not an official nature) is consistent with how the employee wishes to present as a professional, appropriate with the public trust associated with the employee’s position. District employees are representatives of the District during both working hours and non-working hours.  The lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred in online social networks.
  7. If a student contacts an employee via a non-District sponsored web post or social media site, the employee should not respond online. The employee could speak to the student the next school day and suggest other methods of communication – such as an email to the employee’s work address. If a student continues to contact the employee, the employee must share the information with his supervisor.
  8. Employees should refrain from becoming “friends” with or “fans” of students or their parents online.

The Board will not interfere with or initiate disciplinary action against an employee for personal web posts or social media use regarding matters of public concern or other protected matters, made by the employee while he or she is off-duty, without using the District’s computers or electronic network, and that are not part of the employee’s official job duties. However, in the event such web posts or social media use substantially interferes with the efficient operation of the school district or the employee’s ability to effectively perform his or her job, or otherwise violate this Policy, the Board may initiate disciplinary action against an employee up to and including termination from employment.

Violations of these guidelines are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

LEGAL REF.:  105 ILCS 5/21B-75 and 5/21B-80.   

Ill. Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/5A-102.   

Code of Ethics for Ill. Educators, 23 Ill.Admin.Code §22.20.

Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006).   

Pickering v. High School Dist. 205, 391 U.S. 563 (1968).    

Mayer v. Monroe County Community School Corp., 474 F.3d 477 (7th Cir. 2007).

CROSS REF.:  5:20, 5:30, 5:100, 5:120, 5:130, 5:150, 5:170, 5:200, 6:235, 7:20, 7:340

DATED:          March 26, 2015

REVISED:       December 22, 2016, August 2018

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