Ottawa School Board Says Teachers Shouldn’t Post ‘Scantily Clad’ Beach Shots on Social Media

If you’re a teacher, you probably know by now that you need to be extra careful when it comes to social media posting.

Maybe you even use a nickname (especially if you’re the type of teacher who likes to indulge in a few vodka sodas on the weekend) for your online profiles.

Unlike other professions, teachers are under heightened scrutiny when it comes to their conduct outside of the classroom.

In case they were in need of a little more social media insight, a guideline on personal social media use was distributed to some teachers in Ottawa’s public school board last week. However, the wording of the guideline is a bit confusing.

As National Post reports, the guidelines warn against posting images that include drugs (duh), alcohol or “scantily clad photos on the beach.”

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Of course, what constitutes “scantily clad” is open to personal interpretation and presents a slippery slope. Does that exclude shots of yourself and your baby playing in the ocean if you can’t be snapped and shared wearing a bathing suit? Or what about that epic shot of you and your family holding hands under a waterfall?

Not only is the phrase “scantily clad” often disapproving in tone, it’s often female-focused.

As the National Post reports, according to Matthew Johnson, director of education at MediaSmarts, the world of social media tends to be “heavily gendered.” He cites a particular study that found young women reported experiencing both pressure to post idealized photos of themselves and judgment if the images were seen as too sexual.

“It’s interesting that (beach photos) are a particular concern. As is often the case, there seems to be more concern and surveillance of women than of men online,” says Johnson. So, are male teachers subject to the same expectations? Would it be deemed inappropriate for a male teacher to post a shot of him in board shorts surfing?

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Not to mention, some fitness gear leaves as little to the imagination as a bathing suit can (and teachers deserve to share a little #fitspo too).

These are all things to keep in mind when considering the guideline, which wasn’t a formal board document but an excerpt from a presentation given to school principals on the subject, according to Michele Giroux, a spokeswoman for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.

According to the National Post, she said that some principals may have shared the insight with teachers to “create an opportunity for discussion about how we manage the boundaries of our personal and professional lives in a social media context.”

The subject definitely evokes an interesting discussion.

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With such strict expectations of teachers as role models and educators, along with tight guidelines regarding teacher-student interaction (fuelled by cases of teacher-student sex and subsequent charges in recent years), it is reasonable to assume that a teacher shouldn’t post any super racy lingerie or bikini shots.

But to nix bathing suit-clad beach shots all together is a tough call. This is especially the case when the ever-growing body positivity movement is designed to teach women and young girls to embrace their bodies and feel comfortable in their own skin (and bikinis), regardless of size and age.

Some may see the posting of a smiling bikini shot as empowering when it comes to self-love and acceptance.

But if you’re a teacher and are debating as to whether to post that bathing suit shot, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution.

“Teaching is a public profession,” The Ontario College of Teachers’ professional advisory on social media states. “Practitioners are individuals with private lives, however, off-duty conduct matters. Sound judgment and due care should be exercised.”

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Ottawa public board’s informal guidelines (and likely, your own common sense) suggest that teachers should decline friend requests from students, definitely not initiate them. and not follow them on social media.

It’s also highly suggested that teachers adjust privacy settings on their social media accounts so that only their “friends” can view them or comment on posts.

Regardless of your profession, social media behaviour comes down to a matter of common sense over a stringent set of arbitrary guidelines. Be smart. If you’re in need of a little refresher, check out these three things that employers want to see in your social media profiles.

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