A school recently e-mailed me with this situation:
What happens when a parent is on Facebook bashing a staff member? Is there a right way to handle that? It isn’t on the actual school site, but her own Facebook page. What is the ‘correct’ way to handle this?”
This scenario is bound to happen whether your school has an active social media presence or not. Here are my top four tips for handling this:
- Don’t respond via Facebook with a comment. The school, nor anyone associated with the school should get involved in an online fight. This person is obviously so upset that they don’t care that the comments are out there for everyone to see, so trying to “stick up” for the staff member or school is likely to get you nowhere fast.
- Do have your administrative team reach out directly to the person. A simple phone call from the Administrator or Principal to the parent will be a great first step. They should let the person know that they heard about a concern the parent might have, and they’d like to talk it through. A well-intentioned listening ear is sometimes all it takes to help diffuse a situation like this. Hopefully, you operate with an open-door policy in regard to questions and concerns, so you can reaffirm that policy during the conversation. In the future, if the parent has concerns that can be brought to the school directly, rather than through social media, that will be appreciated.
- Don’t write a new post on your school’s Facebook page that says you recently heard that a parent is complaining about a staff member online and that this is unacceptable. This will just get the gossip train started and will create an even BIGGER storm of negativity surrounding the school because people will ask who it was and they will want to know what was said.
- Do post a gentle reminder to all followers of your social media pages that any questions or concerns can be directed to the school. Within the post, provide the proper phone number and e-mail address that the community can use. Opening up the line of communication and following through is key to keeping things positive in the community. If they feel the leadership team is responsive, they will likely address concerns directly in the future.
In the question above, the comments originated away from the school’s social media page. But when there is criticism that occurs on your own page, it can be a great opportunity to show your involvement. You can state, “Thanks for the feedback, Peggy the Parent. We understand your concern and will contact you directly to discuss this matter. The education and well-being of our students are always our number one priority and we look forward to addressing this issue.”
Other parents and followers of the page will see the response and think, “Wow! This school really pays attention to the community.” It turns a negative into a positive.
If you have questions on social media relating to schools, e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to help your school celebrate students and connect the community in new ways now and into the future!