Teachers Warned: Don't Befriend Pupils On Facebook

Dennis Faas's picture

The mayor of New York City has advised teachers to have no contact with pupils on social networking sites such as Facebook. It follows reports that at least three teachers have been fired or suspended over inappropriate comments made online.

The three teachers, all based in the city, had been accused of posting comments on pupils' profile pages that were clearly unsuitable. Another teacher had reportedly offered extra credits to students that added him as a friend on Facebook: that teacher wasn't disciplined.

Although nobody has attempted to defend the behavior of those posting inappropriate comments, there's now a debate about whether teachers should add or accept pupils as friends, no matter how innocent the online relationship.

Facebook Not Appropriate for Teachers

Mayor Mike Bloomberg is calling for teachers to avoid the practice altogether: he told a press conference that "We have to make sure that the only people teaching our kids are people who act appropriately and have the judgment to know what is appropriate with students or not." (Source: nypost.com)

According to the US Department of Education, there are no official guidelines about teachers befriending students on social networking sites.

While the traditional stereotypical figure of a teacher would be somebody more at home with a whiteboard than a PC, it probably shouldn't be surprising that so many appear to be using social networking sites. Services such as Facebook have been around long enough that most newly qualified teachers will have been members of such sites throughout their university and post-graduate periods.

Facebook Fraught With Dangers

Of course, it's not just those teachers who comment on students' pages that can get into trouble. There's also a danger that the pupils, once granted "friend" status, will be able to access embarrassing photographs of the teachers' social life, including those uploaded by other people.

It doesn't take a formal Facebook friendship to get some teachers into trouble, however. In August, a Massachusetts teacher was forced to resign after posting a status update describing students as "germ bags", having mistakenly believed the comments would only be viewable by her confirmed friends. (Source: go.com)

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