What Can I Do When A Parent Rants About Me on Social Media?
Editor’s Note: This is a post from MSTA’s Staff Attorney Scott Smith.
If you are dealing with a situation where a parent has made statements about you on social media, the first thing that you should do is document the post by taking a screenshot of it using an electronic device or saving the post in some way to ensure that you have proof of what was said.
After you have documented the post, the next step is to talk to your school administration. Your school might have insight on this parent or situation and may be able to help mitigate the problem by setting up a time to meet with the parent to diffuse the situation.
Next, you should contact your MSTA Field Representative so they can help you solve the problem. Depending on the content of the post, the Field Representative might help facilitate a discussion with your school and/or the parents involved or work with the MSTA Legal Services Department to look at possible legal action. Remember, at any point in time you can contact the MSTA Legal Services Department directly to help you deal with a situation like this.
Action to Avoid
If you are dealing with a situation where a parent has made statements about you on social media, you should avoid responding to the social media post. Further, you should not post anything negative about the school or the parent on social media. It’s important to gather all the information on what happened before responding. You want to avoid making the situation worse by responding out of anger. Calling, texting, e-mailing, or otherwise contacting the parent immediately without thinking through all the options will likely not help resolve the problem. You should also avoid telling other people in the community, such as friends, family, or co-workers. It is best to keep the incident between you and the parent involved, rather than making the problem bigger by involving outside parties.
Things to Consider
The best approach in moving forward after a parent has made statements about you on social media is to figure out what the parent is unhappy about and then work together with that parent and the school to resolve the problem. Remember that attempting to silence this parent or reaching out in anger will only make the situation worse. In order to solve the problem, it is important to learn about the motives and concerns of all parties involved. The parent might just want to complain, or is having problems expressing their concerns in an appropriate manner. Working together and bridging communication gaps can solve these issues.
Where the Law Stands
Parents have the right to go onto social media or otherwise voice their opinion on the school district and how you are teaching. The school cannot force a parent to delete a post that paints teachers in a negative light. But hopefully, the post will be removed once the people involved come to a solution that works for everyone. Remember defamation might come into play, but only when another individual is publishing false statements of facts about another individual or entity. Defamation lawsuits have other requirements as well, but the starting point is determining whether or not another party is stating their opinion on a situation or making false factual claims.
If a parent is making negative posts about you on social media it’s important to work with your school and MSTA to resolve the problem in a positive manner. Your MSTA Field Representative and the Legal Services Department are here to support you when something like this happens. Further, if at any point in time you feel threatened by the post and are in danger, you should contact the police. If you have any questions regarding social media use please contact MSTA.
You can find out who your FieldRepresentative is and connect with them by calling MSTA Headquarters at 573-442-3127. Further, you can call the MSTA Legal Services Department directly at 866-343-6186.