Social media: how to deal with negative comments from parents

The Key
The Key
Creating a Twitter or Facebook profile provides your school with new opportunities for self-promotion and effective communication with various audiences, but it also opens you up to potentially negative comments from parents, which will be visible in the public domain. In the post below, we include guidance on how to deal with defamatory, negative or inappropriate social media use by parents.

The best way to deal with inappropriate social media use by parents is by proactively setting expectations, and being clear on how the school will respond to such incidents.

Internet acceptable use agreement for parents

The Key provides clear guidelines and expectations on how parents should use social media (or other communications forums) when they communicate with or about your school.

It covers parents’ use of:

  • The school Facebook page
  • Personal social media accounts
  • Private groups or channels (such as class Facebook pages or WhatsApp groups)

This agreement is part of our model ICT and internet acceptable use policy, which has been approved by Forbes Solicitors. You can’t require parents to sign an acceptable use agreement, but using one can help you explain what kinds of behaviour you won’t tolerate.

Parent codes of conduct

Some schools include their expectations for how parents will use social media or private Facebook or chat groups in their parent codes of conduct.

Parent codes of conduct aren’t legally binding, but they can set out things like:

  • How the school will respond to inappropriate behaviour
  • When the school may involve the police
  • The headteacher’s right to ban parents from the school premises

Publicise your policies

Parents may turn to social media if they don’t know how to raise a complaint or handle an incident in the appropriate way. Make sure parents know about your policies and procedures on things like complaints and behaviour.

To do this:

  • Make sure your policies are easy to find on your school website
  • Regularly remind parents about key policies in your newsletters or other updates
  • Make copies of policies available at parents’ evenings, or set aside time to talk about them to parents

Letters to parents: templates and examples

Here are some examples of letters about social media use from other schools:

Banning parents from the school site

Headteachers have the power to ban a parent from the school site if they believe they pose a threat to staff or pupils. It doesn’t matter whether the abuse was in person or over social media. However, you should try to resolve the situation face-to-face first.

If this proves unsuccessful, you can then send a letter to the parent requesting that they don’t visit the school unless invited to attend an appointment (such as a parents’ evening). Seek legal advice before sending any such letter.

Members of The Key for School Leaders have access to a vast range of resources covering all areas of parental engagement and a host of other subjects at www.thekeysupport.com/SL

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