Social Media Impacts Our Schools

Social Media Impacts Our Schools
Posted on 08/04/2016

There are many ways that social media can be used effectively in our schools.  My good friend, Fall Creek School District superintendent, Joe Sanfelippo, has written a book about how social media can help schools “tell their story” about the many wonderful activities and accomplishments that happen every day.  In his presentation last week at Menomonie High School as part of the Western Wisconsin Educational Technology Summit, Dr. Sanfelippo discussed the importance of educators sharing examples of how far our schools have come in providing our children with a world-class educational experience.

In the School District of the Menomonie Area (SDMA), many of our educators have voluntarily learned how to use Twitter, and we are now in the midst of developing a school district Facebook page.  On a daily basis, the school district’s Twitter feed is updated with pictures, comments, scheduling reminders, and a variety of other content that helps our school district “tell our story”.  One of my favorite parts of my job is monitoring the school district’s Twitter account and sharing the content that I think is most relevant for our school district. 

While the number of people following the @SDMAonline Twitter handle has increased dramatically over the past two years to nearly 700 “followers”, parent and community members are not required to have a Twitter account to keep track of what is happening in our schools in the realm of social media.  The school district’s Twitter feed is posted for anyone to view on the homepage of our school district website;

Even though there are some nice benefits of using social media in our schools, community, and personal lives, there are some real concerns related to the challenges brought on by this newer technology.  While most users of social media tools seem to use it in a responsible and appropriate manner, some choose to use it to lodge complaints or vent about a concern.

As a school district, we are in the “people business”.  Our educators and administrative team work hard to meet or exceed expectations for all our our students, parents, and community members.  With the school district serving approximately 3,300 students, in a society that constantly appears to becoming more diverse, it is only natural that there will be some instances of disagreement and discontent.  It is during these times that the use of social media can often become a problem that sometimes leads to toxic comments that can inflame the situation.

While most school-related concerns can be addressed informally by contacting the teacher, coach, principal, or superintendent, our school board has also adopted a formal complaint policy to be used when the situation warrants.  Through these established procedures, our school district is able to address concerns is an efficient, systematic, and professional manner.  Unfortunately, a few school stakeholders have not always used these processes, which has led to some public instances of inefficient and ineffective problem solving that damages our schools, programs, staff, and students.  In some cases people have rushed to judgement over comments made on social media that were based on inaccurate information.

Suggestions related to the use of social media in relation to school concerns might have been summed up best in a guide from the Surrey County Council in the United Kingdom.  A sample letter to parents suggests the following:

As a school, we encourage parents to support us with the education and wellbeing of their children.  If at any time parents feel that they have issues regarding their child’s education, they should make an appointment with (the teacher, coach, or administrator).  As a community, we should discourage the use of social media to criticise and make unsubstantiated comments about the school or any members of the staff.  

In the School District of the Menomonie Area, we will continue to do our best to work with the students, parents, and community members that we serve.  We will continue to expand the use of social media in our school district, and we hope that parents and SDMA stakeholders will help us encourage and demonstrate for our children what it is like to be positive digital role models.

Should school stakeholders have any questions about how to handle school-related concerns or the impact of social media on the SDMA, I invite you to visit the Administrative Service Center on Pine Avenue or contact me at 715-232-1642.  More information about our schools can be found on the school district website ( and on Twitter (