Social media is a place to celebrate ALL of our students. This includes the kids who are tall, short, curly-haired, redheaded, freckle-faced, elementary-aged, pre-teen, high schoolers, athletic and musical.
But what about those students with special needs? How do we safely celebrate them?
This question comes up at every school with whom I have contact. Some administrators say, “We want to celebrate these kids, but we don’t want to single them out.” Others question, “Are there laws about that?” Still, others ask, “Some kids look a little ‘different.’ Is posting photos a good idea, or will it socially harm them?”
Here are four tips to sharing on social media when it comes to special needs:
1. Never single out a group of students in the photo caption. If it is an “Applied Arts” class or “Guided Reading” group, simply talk about the fun project this group of students is doing!
2. Monitor comments a little more closely if you think some students or even “trolls” may comment. I had to block several trolls from a school page when they chose to attack a specific post of a student. The users were from California and Texas – nowhere near the Wisconsin community.
A troll is someone who makes it a sport to comment negatively on social media in hopes of creating controversy. The more comments made and the more hateful the conversation gets, the more the troll enjoys it. Usually these are not directly in your community.
3. Consider taking photos of the students from a unique angle – from the side or over the shoulder while they are working with technology. These actually help get your audience to experience things from the perspective of the students.
4. Have a special talk with the parents of students with special needs to ensure that they are comfortable with their photos being taken. All students must sign off on whether their photos can be used in the newspaper or on social media, but that extra conversation is worth it to ensure that they want their kids featured.
If this raises additional questions, please comment below or reach out directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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