The impact of social media on your school/academy

9th November 2022

Are you finding that both pupils and their parents are causing issues on different social media platforms?

Feedback from our latest webinar, ‘Parental Complaints’, shows our clients are finding an increased number of complaints being raised online by parents on social media platforms such as Facebook, and more privately in WhatsApp groups for parents or staff. Additionally, pupils at schools or academy trusts are making negative comments or acting inappropriately online about their school. This guidance will discuss how to deal with the behaviour of parents and pupils on these platforms.

Public social media platforms

Defamatory or harmful statements can have a severe effect on the school and on any individuals involved. Therefore, the school’s primary objective is to have any negative comments removed. Platforms such as Facebook allow you to report any negative comments if they violate Facebook’s community standards, as well as being able to report the author (if for example, a fake account has been set up by a pupil or parent). Additionally, if the schools or academy trusts have a Facebook page, reviews and/or comments on posts can be turned off, leaving the school’s page less vulnerable to negative comments.

In an instance where a negative comment or complaint does not meet the threshold to go against Facebook’s community standards, it is advised that the school acknowledge the comments, as it is important that any complainants know they will receive a quick response to solving the issue. Contacting the parent in question directly can help get to the bottom of the issue as a discussion can take place – being transparent and swift can help maintain the relationship between school and home, which in turn can prevent the negative comments escalating further. The ultimate goal is to take these discussions away from social media platforms to be settled.

Parental/Staff WhatsApp Groups

The school’s duty of care towards their staff includes preventing or responding to any defamatory and malicious comments on class WhatsApp groups. In cases where they do happen, they need to be dealt with in a timely and efficient manner.

For issues that have picked up support within a group, it can be helpful to contact any parents directly that are sharing strong opinions/concerns – not only does this make it clear that the school welcomes feedback but it can stop an issue gaining momentum within a group. It can often highlight that there are a small number of parents that are contributors, escalating and keeping issues alive. The same approach can be taken with staff WhatsApp groups.

There are numerous ways a schools can approach negative opinions on social media and WhatsApp groups. Further advice on any of the above matters can be sought from our Education team: Tina Morris, Simon Shepherd and Annie Gray and/or our Litigation team: Annie Hui-Gillen.

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