(TNS) — AUSTIN, Minn. — This goes without saying: Be careful with what you post.

The Austin Public Schools board approved a social media policy for its employees on Monday night, expressing that those who work for the district must present themselves professionally whether at school or on social media sites.

This marks the first time the district has had such a policy in place, said Mark Raymond, human resources director. The policy takes effect immediately.

"Just like any other policies, the idea is to offer guidance for employees," Raymond said. "That was why the document was put together and to answer any questions that do come up."

Some student organizations, clubs and athletic teams for the district are shifting their communication to social media. The guidelines would help set uniformity in how Austin schools are represented and address other issues, such as who handles accounts if a coach or advisor decides not to assume the responsibility.

Topics explored in the new policy include being transparent, respecting audience and co-workers, use of social media during district hours or on district equipment and representing the school district, whether using a personal account or a professional one.

"The lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred," the policy states. "Just by identifying yourself as a district employee, you are creating perceptions about your expertise and about the district. ... (Be) ever mindful that in the minds of students, families, colleagues and the public, you are a district employee."

Social media platforms include Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as personal blogs. There's also language in the policy that describes the use of images and inappropriate language. The policy also explores possible disciplinary action and termination from employee positions if found in violation.

Addressing that social media usage for separate personal and professional use remains in a gray area, Raymond noted many school districts in the state still don't have specific social media policies in place, but he anticipates that will change.

"The school district is making sure we are doing our due diligence when we are producing our own net presence and social media presence," he said.

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