Austin ISD to screen employees’ social media accounts for violent, racist content

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Beginning this September and occurring twice per year, Austin ISD employees’ social media accounts will be screened for inappropriate content including “illegal activity; violent, threatening, or sexually explicit posts; or racist, bigoted, or discriminatory behavior.”

The district says this new policy will ensure employees are setting a good example for students, whether in or out of the school building.

This measure was first established when the Board of Trustees took action in February 2020, approving a contract with Social Intelligence, a third party company from California. The company will run reports using employee names, phone numbers, email and physical addresses, looking as far back as seven years prior.

The district says the company will flag both original content created by the employee as well as materials friends and family have tagged them in. The rule of thumb to consider, the district says, is if the inappropriate content appears in any way on one’s profile, it will be flagged.

Those found in violation of this new social media policy will be contacted by their supervisors. If the content appears to disrupt the employee’s effectiveness in their role, AISD human resources may get involved. Those found to be in violation of district policy may be terminated.

The district says Social Intelligence is unable to access social media accounts which are set to private.

One employee KXAN spoke to wondered if staff could be fired for comments made in the past.

“Is it just a simple, ‘take this off your profile?’ Or does it mean that I am facing disciplinary action?” the anonymous employee questioned.

Leslie Stephens, AISD’s chief human capital officer, said the district doesn’t want to discipline staff unless it rises to a level where it might harm students. Otherwise, they’ll likely just ask them to delete the post.

The employee also wondered if the $1.8 million couldn’t have been better spent.

“Considering the district is running a deficit budget, the teachers are fighting for a 2% raise, why are we spending the money on this right now?”

Stephens said this is coming from the budget specifically kept for student safety expenses.

“It’s just a matter of trying to make sure that we represent our best selves forward to our students, parents and community,” Stephens said. “There is always that opportunity to clean up those things.”

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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