How to deal with parents disrespecting staff on social media?

Debate – Primary School

What was the issue addressed?
We’ve had issues with social media and parents disrespecting staff and the school. As this was not on the school website pages we had no control over it. We did discuss it with parents but we had no control over it.

What happened?
We gained advice from governor support and some staff did obtain advice from their trade union. We sent a newsletter about social media to parents.

What lessons were learnt?
I don’t think the actions were suitable although the comments did naturally fizzle out.

What controls are in place for protecting school and staff on social media? We would be interested to hear how other governing bodies have dealt with such issues.

There many benefits of using social media but unfortunately there is a downside too. Schools should have a policy for using social media for staff, governors and parents, in conjunction with any information from the Local Authority. South West Grid for Learning has as suite of resources for online safety, including a model policy on social media.

It is of course, totally inappropriate for parents to post any disrespectful comments about school staff on social media. This can be very upsetting for all concerned. The idea of sending out information about social media in a newsletter is a good one, but even better if something is sent before any incident occurs, perhaps at the beginning of each school year as a reminder, or even mentioning briefly at parent events can be a step in the right direction.

Schools will have distinct polices that parents should follow, if they have a concern or a complaint. Often concerns can be dealt with before they escalate. Parents however, need to know how they can raise any issue from the outset and need to understand the correct process to follow. Highlighting this in newsletters may help.

If unfortunately, this doesn’t work, the school will need to address the situation and each case will be different, of course. It may be appropriate to invite the parent to discuss what has happened and to explain that if there is a specific concern, the parent will need to follow the schools’ complaint policy. Equally, written correspondence could be sent to the parent, outlining any possible cause of action. Above all, it is important to try to ensure that the situation does not escalate and is dealt with swiftly.

Governors Cymru Services has a helpful publication on governors and social media which includes some useful tips and also provides a link to a school policy.

The onus is on all of us to ask the question, Am I confident that any social media content I post if accessed by others, will be considered reasonable and appropriate? Do think about it.

Adapted from the EWC good practice guide on using social media responsibly

Has your school experienced any inappropriate use of social media against members of school staff?
What do think are the best ways to tackle parents disrespecting staff?

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