School Business Affairs June 2019

40 JUNE 2019 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS legal issues The challenges of social media use in and around the school campus. Social Media in Schools: Watch What You Post By Charles J. Russo, J.D., Ed.D., and Marius H. Smit, LL.M., Ph.D. T he 2018 Pew Research Center report on teens, social media, and technology (Anderson and Jiang 2018) states that 95% of teens have a smartphone or access to one; 45% say they are online “on a near-con- stant basis.” Moreover, according to the report, about 50% of U.S. teens say they use Facebook, 74% use YouTube, 69% use Instagram, and 50% use Snapchat. Although not identifying rates of student use, the South African Social Media Land- scape 2018 study found that the number of South Africans using Facebook increased by 14% between 2016 and 2017—from 14 million to 16 million. Of those, 14 million were accessing the social network on mobile devices such as phones (Maseko 2017). Because of their potential for misuse, the National Association of School Governing Bodies called for a ban on cell phone use in South African schools (Dunlop 2017). Given the influence of social media in schools—often accessed through cell phones and other handheld devices—this column examines representative controversies sur- rounding its use in South Africa and the United States. Social Media Disputes in South Africa Two social media incidents in South African schools made national headlines early in 2019. On the first day of school, a kindergar- ten teacher at a Schweizer-Reneke primary school in North West Province created a WhatsApp group to share information and photographs with the parents of her stu- dents. Throughout the morning, the teacher photographed the children in her classroom, sending the photos to their parents to assure them that all was well. A social media storm erupted when one parent protested that black and white learners were segregated and seated at different tables in the class- room. One photograph seemed to affirm the suspicion of racial segregation. And when that photograph was shared by many on social media, it caused a furor. In South Africa, 2019 is a national elec- tion year, and the Economic Freedom Fight- ers (EFF) party organized public protests at the school. Masses of angry EFF protesters converged on the school, forced open the school gate, and broke down the princi- pal’s door as they demanded the teacher’s immediate dismissal because of perceived racism. The teacher tearfully protested her innocence but to no avail, as the head of the provincial department of education rushed to the primary school and summarily dis- charged her. When a civic organization acting in defense of the teacher took the matter to court, facts revealed that the children had not been racially segregated—they were reg- ularly rotated during different play activities in the classroom. As such, the photograph created a false impression (Shange 2019). Moreover, the photograph was of another teacher’s classroom, so the wrong person was falsely accused and disciplined. After a judicial hearing, the teacher was reinstated because she had been unlawfully dismissed because of a misunderstanding ( Solidarity Trade Union obo Barkhuizen v. MEC for Education, North West, South Africa 2019). Still, the erroneous public perception of rac- ism at the school could not be erased. The second incident occurred at the Sans Souci Girls’ High School in Cape Town when a student posted a video on social media that was taken during class. The video showed a teacher angrily raising her ANNA FRAJTOVA/STOCK.ADOBE.COM