Teachers and Facebook

Gordon ThomasGordon Thomas

Question: What guidelines should teachers follow when ­using Facebook?

Answer:
When using Facebook (or other social networking sites) teachers need to be judicious as to what text and pictures they post, keeping in mind that what they post can be seen by others beyond those they have listed as “friends.”

Alberta courts have ruled that online posting that reflects negatively on one’s employer can be grounds for discipline or termination. Moreover, online communication can be seductive and can elicit personal information from teachers that may fall outside an appropriate teacher–student or teacher–teacher relationship. Making critical comments about colleagues can give rise to charges of unprofessional conduct, and posting pictures of students or coworkers can constitute a ­violation of privacy laws. Also, teachers should be careful in posting pictures of themselves: pictures can be manipulated by others and then posted elsewhere, and provocative images can bring about employment difficulties.

The following are some basic suggestions for posting on social networking sites:
• Do not make critical comments about colleagues, your employer or your employer’s policies.
• Ensure that the pictures you post and the statements you make would not raise concern with your employer regarding your role-modelling function as a teacher.
• Do not share confidential information about students or post pictures of them.
• Do not add students as friends.

Should you have additional questions, contact Member Services at 780-447-9400 (in Edmonton and area) or 1-800-232-7208 (toll free in Alberta).

Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (
gordon.thomas@ata.ab.ca).