The St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 Policy Committee on Monday recommended that the full Board of Education enact a policy change that would prohibit the school district from asking job candidates for their user names and passwords for their social media accounts.
The committee’s recommendation pertained to a proposed Hiring Process and Criteria policy change that also would limit when the district can conduct credit checks on prospective employees and would restrict the district from checking a job candidate’s worker’s comp claims history.
The social media portion of the proposed policy change reflects an Illinois measure signed into law this year and a growing concern among privacy advocates about the perception that employers have overstepped in asking for direct access to individuals’ private social media accounts.
Social media has its charms, but it also has its disadvantages — particularly when someone has posted on Facebook photos or comments, for example, of their — let’s say indiscretions or weekend foolishness — for all to see.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media are so ubiquitous, even employers have found it useful to check a prospective employee’s sites as one more layer of vetting a job candidate. According to the blog The Reppler Effect, a survey last year of 300 hiring professionals by Reppler, a social media monitoring service, showed that:
91 percent indicate they look at prospective employees’ social media accounts — most often Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, in that order.
About two-thirds of those employers say they had rejected job candidates based on what they found in their social media accounts. What they found varied from inappropriate photos or comments to content about their use of drugs or alcohol to information revealing lies about their qualifications, among a handful of other reasons.
For some, much could be at stake already. Yet, while some might complain, most would not consider this an intrusion, because anyone with Internet access could view or see such unfettered posts, whether photos or text, including a potential employer.
But social media aficionado have learned to take steps — using privacy settings — to protect such posts from all but their closest “friends” — making such posts more nearly private. That explains some of the outrage that grew in recent years as employers began asking job candidates for their social media user names and passwords. That type of broad access would give the employer the ability to search those private posts for information or images they might not otherwise be able to find.
Failure to comply might drop the candidate from further consideration.
The outcry has been heard, clearly. The backlash has prompted states around the country to consider barring employers from asking for user names and passwords to social media, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In May, Maryland became the first state this year to ban the practice, followed by Illinois in August and California in September, according to the conference’s website; another 14 states this year have introduced legislation that would restrict the practice.
District 303 Superintendent Dr. Donald Schlomann told committee members the district does routinely scan through social media sites as part of pre-employment screenings. Sometimes surprises are found.
The policy change will bar the district or any of its representatives from asking a job candidate for password access to his or her social media sites.
Realistically, Schlomann said, if someone is hiding something on a Facebook page, often it is only a matter of time before one of their friends shares the post with another friend and the truth comes out.
“Usually, someone (with inappropriate photos or content) will ‘friend’ someone who will send it to me,” Schlomann said. “We can still use that” when vetting job candidates.
Schlomann added that even if the district suspects a specific issue, it cannot seek access to an employee’s social media accounts unless it has a court order. At that point, commented board member Kathy Hewell, it would be a police matter anyway.
Other Policy Action
In other matters, the committee:
Recommended a policy change governing the use and conduct of personal technology and social media.
Recommended Board of Education approval of several simple policy changes – either to wording or to reflect district practices — pertaining to board member expenses, board meetings and the format of board agendas.
Tabled a police change related to home and hospital instruction.
Recommended a change to the district’s Instructional Materials policy, which until now has referred to a list of textbooks as acceptable course materials. The change will allow descriptions of Internet materials when a course’s curriculum includes online resources, or when textbooks are replaced by online resources.