Austin Texas School District to Monitor Employees’ Social Media

The Austin Independent School District announced that it will monitor its employees’ social media activity.

The district will conduct reviews twice a year, beginning in September 2021. The stated aim is to help foster a good environment for students in and out of the classroom.

The district has employed California-based background check service “Social Intelligence” to perform the screening. According to the district’s website, the social media checks will include up to seven years of history.

They will look for information that violates the district’s policy—hints of violence, racism, intolerance, potentially illegal activity, and sexually explicit content.

The organization has assured it will redact “federal or state-protected class information” from the final report. This would include details that may indicate someone’s ethnicity or sexual orientation, for example.

Supervisors or district HR officers will contact the persons with content that’s in violation of the district’s policy.

The employees will then face disciplinary action that could include termination.

Cleaning House

Cases of social media activity affecting people’s professional occupation are not uncommon. As the internet seeps into every aspect of life, the line between person and persona continues to whither.

Individuals and companies have been using people search sites to gather info on people of interest for some time. The district’s move illustrates a spreading of the practice not just to another industry but to a new frequency too.

Checks of this sort will no longer be confined to the recruitment process, instead they will become a part of the ongoing monitoring of employees.

The district will monitor posts made by staff members, as well as those that others tag them in. Depending on a person’s settings and the platform, they may not have control over the latter. The district has not specified how nuanced the reporting of this information will be.

The analysis will include public social profiles, such as Twitter. Private accounts and social media like WhatsApp and FB Messenger, however, will be safe from the scans.

The intent is to maintain a clean image, so the target of the check is only content that anyone, including students, can see.

The plans haven’t come without scrutiny. Employees are currently fighting for a pay raise, as such, they are worried that the $1.8 million allotted for the project could eat up that budget.

The District Chief Human Capital Officer responded that the money is coming out of a budget dedicated to student safety. There is no indication of formal opposition to the move for now, but the story is likely to develop further.

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Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.

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