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Local Teachers’ Reactions to Law Banning Facebook Friendships with Students

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A new law in Missouri will make it illegal for teachers and students in that state to have private relationships on social media sites like Facebook.

The idea is to discourage sexual contact, though the social networking language is buried within:  “Teachers also cannot have a non-work-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student.”

Should teachers and students be “friends” on social media sites?

“Personally, I wouldn’t do it, and I would never recommend that a colleague does it,” said Tom Curatti, a freshman science teacher at Flint Northwestern High School. “Professionally, it’s like walking through a landmine. Technology could help with classwork and communication if questions come up, but, unfortunately, the risk of any negatives that could arise outweigh the positives,” Curatti went on to say in a phone interview with Cars 108.

Another teacher, who did not want to be named, adds: “Not with current students, but it’s fine once they graduate.” The teacher, who is on the faculty of Fenton High School, says, “I believe our social mediums make it way too easy to cross professional boundaries. A student and teacher shouldn’t be “friends” – that isn’t the nature of their relationship, even in a virtual setting.”

Central Michigan University alumnus Paul Gaba, who teaches at a Florida high school, disagrees: “We have had lively, open debates on current events. Students have asked questions about assignments through Facebook.” Gaba says he accepts his students’ friend requests.

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Gaba says the Missouri law’s problem is that it can take contemporary learning tools out of teachers’ hands. “There are teachers (like myself) that do indeed use tools like Facebook effectively in the classroom to engage students who ten years ago would have slipped between the cracks. Teaching is changing. Our students already use these tools in their daily lives, and wouldn’t it be a shame if effective, creative teachers were dissuaded from teaching in a state because of a culture that does not value their skills?”

His advice, “Think before posting. It’s like anything else we do socially, whether at a football game, restaurant, the gym, whatever. What you say and how you say it will make a difference.”

Missouri school districts are required to develop written policies to address the “appropriate use of electronic media,” which must include guidelines for social network use, by the start of 2012.


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