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FCPS proposes social media policy, drawing line between professional and personal speech

Fairfax County Public Schools

Fairfax County Public Schools is establishing clearer ground rules for its employees’ use of social media.

Under a proposed new policy, FCPS workers will be prohibited from expressing their personal beliefs, disparaging other community members, and other actions on accounts affiliated with the school system.

A draft of the policy was discussed earlier today (Tuesday) by the Fairfax County School Board’s governance committee.

The policy will bring FCPS in line with other school divisions in the region, according to Executive Director of Communications & Community Relations Helen Lloyd.

“The goal of the proposed social media policy is…ensure we are providing clear guidance to staff around the need to make distinctions between personal social media (where they can express any view they like) and professional social media (FCPS use for work purposes) where there are professional expectations around use,” Lloyd told FFXnow by email.

Lloyd emphasized that the policy won’t limit what employees can say or do on their personal accounts, though it states that staff should include a disclaimer in their bio that the views expressed are their own, not those of their employer.

According to the draft policy, the official FCPS social media accounts and other accounts for specific schools, classes, or employees are barred from posting or sharing content that:

  1. expresses or disseminates any one person’s political or philosophical beliefs, interests, opinions, ideas, photos, videos, or other content.
  2. conducts private business or executes financial transactions.
  3. campaigns for or against any political candidate, including the account user.
  4. engages in arguments with other users.
  5. plagiarizes the work of others.
  6. is obscene or libelous.
  7. questions FCPS’ commitment to serve all students.
  8. disparages others, especially students, staff or families.

Other prohibited content includes information that could “jeopardize the privacy, safety, or well-being of students and staff,” violates local, state, or federal laws, or FCPS policies, or is “otherwise substantially disruptive to the educational environment of the school or school division operations or activities.”

A proposed regulation supporting the policy also addresses interactions with journalists and the news media, requiring that FCPS employees obtain permission from a principal or manager before providing information or participating in interviews.

The principal or program manager is then required to notify the FCPS Office of Communication and Community Relations in advance or as soon as possible, if “a circumstance makes it unrealistic” to provide notice ahead of time.

“In the same way that any large organization wants to ensure staff who are representing them in the public forum represent their values and mission, FCPS asks that staff asked to speak for FCPS reach out to their principal ahead of time,” Lloyd said.

The proposal comes as FCPS is also moving to establish new expectations for students’ social media use through Student Rights & Regulations revisions scheduled to be approved by the school board on May 26.

Earlier this year, the school system had banned students from accessing Instagram, TikTok and other social media platforms when using the school’s network or school-issued laptops.

Under the proposed revisions, students could be allowed to use social media with administrators’ permission, but activity must be related to academic activities.

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