Although the fight for affirmative action has been at work for some time, the education industry faces similar challenges in driving diversity in the ranks of their faculty and staff. There are about 100,000 public schools in the United States and just over 6,000 post-secondary institutions, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Public schools alone employ over 3.2 million teachers (82% of which are white) while higher education accounts for about four million jobs in total, the majority of which are still held by largely white and male-identifying people.
While a recent report from the Department of Education noted that diversity in public school teachers has grown slowly over time, institutions at all educational levels have a long way to go to be able to attain equitable representation for both instructors and students. However, many schools are still struggling with more immediate challenges to classroom safety including racism, threats of violence, and sexually inappropriate behavior.
Here, social media screening is emerging as a practical tool to support a healthier learning and working environment. By taking a more holistic approach to screening, education professionals may be able to mitigate some of the intolerant behavior and unconscious bias that has contributed to toxic classroom dynamics. In turn, a healthier working environment that is actively invested in eliminating discrimination may help attract a more diverse candidate pool. Here’s how:
Holistic screening takes a nuanced approach to the individual
While screening for criminal behavior may be a nonstarter for a career in education, social behavior may have just as much to say about what makes an outstanding candidate for a teaching position. Plenty of problematic or unacceptable behaviors go undetected by criminal background searches. For example, a recent firing in Georgia involved crass simulations of violence over Facebook while another in Denver involved ableist slurs. These types of behaviors are relevant as they relate to the health and safety of both students and faculty. Utilizing social media screening as a supplement to criminal searches helps schools catch violent, threatening, sexually inappropriate, or intolerant behavior that may violate school policy and/or contribute to the harmful treatment of students and colleagues.
Refer to institutional values to help drive the screening process
Diversity and inclusion initiatives rely heavily on a values-driven hiring approach. However, values are best demonstrated through a track record of social behavior. Enter social media screening, which can operate as a practical solution to screen for behavior that contradicts an institution’s values. For example, if a school’s values involve inclusivity and respect, Social Intelligence’s reports can be formulated to include a focus on intolerant or bigoted behavior. Social Intelligence Reports, at a base level, include filters for violence and sexually explicit activity.
In some cases, primary and secondary schools concerned about the safety of minors have looked further to specify content for crimes committed against children such as child pornography or gun violence as it pertains to school shootings. Similarly, higher education institutions may specify filters for sexual harassment or racism in the interest of promoting safety and respect across students and faculty alike on campus.
With these clear, school-related filters, hiring managers are equipped with an actionable document to assist in assessing a candidate’s fitness when their report demonstrates a history of value-averse behavior.
Actively working to eliminate discrimination can support a more diverse talent pool
While the affirmative action movement in higher education has been making strides for equity on the student side, a well-represented student body will be stifled without a diverse teaching faculty. Diversity is reliant on inclusive culture. Discrimination and intolerance are often cited as leading factors in turnover and generally stem from exclusive or homogenous workplace culture.
We have found that when schools prioritize inclusivity, they set a precedent for attracting and retaining a diverse pool of talent. To build a more diverse faculty, these schools commit to the idea of searching for candidates that will actively support their initiatives in both sentiment and action. Like any other industry, schools and higher learning institutions go through a natural turnover process. With social media screening, a school’s HR team can reliably weed out harmful behavior by screening all new hires for potentially problematic behavior across multiple categories.
In turn, the school that actively takes steps to deter discrimination within its employment ranks is more likely to extend that same attitude to their students, creating a healthier and safer environment not only for students and faculty but for the wider communities they represent as well.
For both school districts and higher education institutions, the safety of students and community trust are of utmost importance. Social Intelligence helps schools navigate trust and interest within their campus and broader communities as the containers for these conversations increasingly move to digital spaces.
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