Schools may be li­able for com­ments

Pilbara News - - Pilbara Education - Bethany Hi­att

■ Schools are be­ing warned they could be li­able for defam­a­tory com­ments posted on their Face­book pages by par­ents.

A doc­u­ment sent to mem­bers of the WA Pri­mary Prin­ci­pals’ As­so­ci­a­tion urges prin­ci­pals to mod­er­ate com­ments on school so­cial me­dia sites and re­move in­ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­rial as soon as pos­si­ble.

“If your school has a Face­book site or other me­dia that al­lows so­cial com­men­tary, be aware you could be­come li­able for defam­a­tory com­ments posted on to th­ese sites,” it says.

“The po­si­tion emerg­ing from Aus­tralian courts is that ‘brand’ own­ers must take re­spon­si­bil­ity for user posts on their so­cial me­dia.”

WAPPA pres­i­dent Stephen Breen said the as­so­ci­a­tion had asked its lawyers to de­velop the guide­lines on so­cial me­dia, defama­tion and schools in re­sponse to mem­bers’ con­cerns.

The doc­u­ment says ru­mour and mis­in­for­ma­tion can quickly un­der­mine a school’s rep­u­ta­tion.

But it ad­vises tak­ing le­gal ac­tion over defam­a­tory com­ments could be a long and costly path.

In­stead, it sug­gests prin­ci­pals record the ev­i­dence, ask the site mod­er­a­tor to re­move the com­ments and no­tify the per­son who posted the com­ment of the is­sue.

Mr Breen said so­cial me­dia was now an ac­cepted means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween schools and par­ents, but prin­ci­pals needed to be aware of prob­lems.

“The good name of a school is very im­por­tant,” he said.

Mr Breen said al­though par­ents rarely posted neg­a­tive com­ments on a mon­i­tored school site, schools and teach­ers were of­ten tar­gets on com­mu­nity Face­book pages.

But he said it was en­cour­ag­ing more par­ents were pre­pared to back schools by ar­gu­ing against neg­a­tive com­ments.

Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment act­ing deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral for schools Lind­say Hale said a grow­ing num­ber of pub­lic schools had Twit­ter or Face­book pages to keep their com­mu­ni­ties up to date with news about chil­dren’s school­ing.

The depart­ment pro­vided ad­vice to schools on es­tab­lish­ing a so­cial me­dia pres­ence, in­clud­ing con­sid­er­ing the as­so­ci­ated risks and mak­ing sure the ac­count was mon­i­tored so any in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tent could be con­trolled.

“So­cial me­dia is per­va­sive and like bil­lions of users around the world, our schools need to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their ac­counts and avoid risks,” Mr Hale said.

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