With the increased use of social networking through the internet and via cell phone, it is important for officials to understand the importance of maintaining an ethical approach while participating in various forums, chat rooms, and all forms of social media. Violations of this policy will be considered conduct “unbecoming” an official and subject a licensed official to licensure suspension.

To malign or openly criticize another official in any form of electronic communication is considered not only unprofessional, but also undermines sports officiating in general. It is also unprofessional for officials to offer rules clarifications or interpretations through these medium without the expressed directive from the appropriate state high school association. Licensed officials have to be very careful with the use of social media. In many cases, closed discussion and understanding is important to consistency and rules enforcement. The line is crossed when an official states, “The call should have been”, or “The rule should have been interpreted as”, for those are statements that should only be made by those officially designated by the NFHS or state offices to make such interpretations. Internal discussion is likely a very good thing if the audience can be securely limited. A moderator or discussion leader can then say “we have had enough debate, we will get a clarification and post it online when we get it”. That’s the advantage of closed forums. The KHSAA advocates the recommended policy statement of the National Association of Sports Officials that states- Social networking sites can be wonderful communications tools.

But there can be unintended consequences if they are used improperly. Because of their unique standing, offi cials need to be particularly careful when using those sites. Here are some reminders and guidelines:

DO be aware that posts on social media are visible to the general public. Even if you limit access to your page to friends, it is likely that your post will be viewed by someone beyond the circle of people you intended to see it.

DO find out your association or league expectations regarding social media. Your association may not have hard and fast rules, but find out if it has an unofficial policy.

DO think twice before you post. If there is anything in your post that could be construed as a criticism of officials, of officials’ decisions, or of schools, coaches or athletes…it’s better left unsent.

DO assume that your post will be seen by the two teams you will see in your next game and the teams you worked in your previous game as well as your partner(s) in those games.

DON’T post anything relating to the schools you have worked or will work. It calls your objectivity into question.

DON’T include anything in a post that makes reference to an upcoming assignment. If teams want to find out who is going to be working their game, they should do so through official channels, not your tweet.

DON’T post details about other people’s assignments, to playoff games for instance, until that information has been officially released. Don’t use your page as a news service.

DON’T use social media to criticize state or local association policies, assigning practices, etc. DON’T make posts regarding calls made by officials in other games, whatever the level. You and your buddies might debate the call you saw on TV, but debating the call on Facebook,

Twitter or other forums and social media is a no-no.

Accountability and integrity should always be our guiding principles.

Jeopardizing your impartiality or professionalism should never be a part of your actions or posts. It is my hope this information will help you with your decisions and involvement with social media.

Additionally, it is important for sports officials to realize that it is considered very unprofessional to carry a cell phone on the field or court, regardless of the reason. Officials are encouraged to refrain from the use of these types of electronic devices for any communication while the official has NFHS rules book jurisdiction, including texting or other forms of messaging or communication except in the case of an emergency.