This article is published in Table Talk, a new series on the Covenant Eyes blog. These news highlights are designed as conversation starters on Internet safety for you and your children.
It’s the first state law of its kind in the nation. Last month, Missouri govenor Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 54 into law in an effort to eliminate inappropriate contact between students and teachers. By January 1, 2012, every school district in Missouri must develop a written policy concerning teacher-student communications. These policies must forbid a teacher from having a “nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student.”
Practically speaking: teachers who have a private Facebook profile cannot be friends with students at their school. They are also forbidden from sending a student a private message through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.
While teachers and administrators generally support the idea of maintaining a professional, non-personal relationship between educators and their students, the law has many critics. Some districts have found the use of Facebook effective to share announcements and offer homework help because it is so widely used by students. Some believe social networks actually help teachers to maintain professional relationships with their students. One teacher says this bill was regretfully signed into law “in spite of considerable evidence that social networking has been a positive force in education, and little or no evidence to the contrary.”
While the law doesn’t forbid all communication on social media, the gray areas have some teachers wondering. Members of the Missouri State Teachers Association have a lot of questions. “I’m a teacher. Can I follow my daughter?” “I have a second job as a youth minister. Can I friend those kids?” “What about former students?” Will a district unfamiliar with social media ban it altogether out of fear?
- What are the interactions between students and the teachers at your school over Facebook (or Twitter, or Google+)? Are your teachers using social media much?
- Does “friending” someone on social media imply a certain level of personal relationship?
- Do you think schools need to have policies about these kind of things? How might you write the policy?