Managing school Facebook relationships can be challenging

23 Sep

Moi wrote about Facebook and school relationships in Teachers and social media: Someone has to be the adult:

Jennifer Preston is reporting in the New York Times article, Rules to Stop Pupil and Teacher From Getting Too Social Online that school districts all over the country are increasingly worried about the interaction between teachers and social media.

Faced with scandals and complaints involving teachers who misuse social media, school districts across the country are imposing strict new guidelines that ban private conversations between teachers and their students on cellphones and online platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

The policies come as educators deal with a wide range of new problems. Some teachers have set poor examples by posting lurid comments or photographs involving sex or alcohol on social media sites. Some have had inappropriate contact with students that blur the teacher-student boundary. In extreme cases, teachers and coaches have been jailed on sexual abuse and assault charges after having relationships with students that, law enforcement officials say, began with electronic communication.

But the stricter guidelines are meeting resistance from some teachers because of the increasing importance of technology as a teaching tool and of using social media to engage with students. In Missouri, the state teachers union, citing free speech, persuaded a judge that a new law imposing a statewide ban on electronic communication between teachers and students was unconstitutional. Lawmakers revamped the bill this fall, dropping the ban but directing school boards to develop their own social media policies by March 1.

School administrators acknowledge that the vast majority of teachers use social media appropriately. But they also say they are increasingly finding compelling reasons to limit teacher-student contact. School boards in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia have updated or are revising their social media policies this fall….

Teachers and others in responsible positions who deal with children must exercise common sense and not put themselves in situations which at the minimum will be awkward and which will lead to activity which is inappropriate.

Boundaries people. Boundaries.

If you are too stupid to use caution or you can’t exercise caution, society will begin to impose sanctions against those engaged in inappropriate activity with children. Engaging in inappropriate activity with children does not make you too sexy, it makes you too stupid! For a really good analysis of the pros and cons of Facebook teacher and student Facebook relationships go to: Debate: Teacher-student friendships on Facebook

There are many of the same issues with teachers and parents as Facebook friends.

Gred Toppo has written the interesting USA Today article, Should parents ‘friend’ their child’s teacher? Among the suggestions are:

Find out the policy.

Ask the teacher and/or principal what their policy is on friending parents on Facebook. More and more districts are actively supporting teachers in creating professional school accounts so this may be a good option for some educators….

Teacher sets up a class Facebook page or group.

Parents ask whether the teacher would consider setting up (or whether the teacher currently has) a Facebook group and/or page for the class, which would let parents and teachers interact, and parents could get a window into things going on in the classroom….

Parents set up a class page or group.

In some schools, parents have set up a class page or group, which is a way for parents to stay connected with one another as well as with their child’s teacher if she or he agrees to do so.

There are many ways teachers can connect with parents using technology.

Adam Steiner has written the great article, Ten Ways to Use Technology to Increase Parent Participation:

  1. Create a class webpage that provides contact/biographical info, updates on class activities, a calendar, and a place to communicate with the teacher.  This is the first step in opening a window for parents and I am surprised at how many teachers neglect to create a web page.  Ideally, a school system would provide a templated system of webpages ala Schoolworld to make it easier for teachers.  For savvier teachers, facebook or edmodo allows the teacher to increase the level of communication using a recognizable social media format.  This would allow for “wall posts”, integration with Twitter and/or text messaging and e-mail, and realtime chatting.  As long as you are not friending students, I think a class facebook page for information sharing would be a valuable tool.
  1. E-mail list for regular updates to the parents en masse
    Many pre-school teachers do it so why not at the upper grades?  Use your e-mail program to create a shortcut to e-mail your entire class and their parents.  This is a quick way to announce major assignments and be sure that there will be no question about whether the adequate information to complete the project was provided.
  1. Parent portal to grading system so that parents can get updates regularly
    Why have the end of the semester provide a surprise to an unsuspecting parent?  Provide ongoing access to grades.  If your school system uses one of the major student management systems such as iPass and Rediker, this may already be done for you.  If not, explore ways to make your grades available to parents on an ongoing basis.  For example, you could use to manage student papers and check for plagiarism, but you could also post grades on the site.  Parents could then be instructed to get the user name and password from the student.  Or you could use a teacher website creator like edmodo or learning management system such as Moodle to post grades and make them available to parents.  
  1. Class newsletter that is sent home regularly
    Another common pre-school practice that should be exported to the upper levels.  Rather than relying on occasional e-mail updates to parents, you could create a class newsletter that is sent home regularly – such as once a month.  This could be created using a word processing or publishing program and include photos of students, examples of student work, or upcoming assignments.  You could also make the newsletter itself a class assignment.
  1. Blogging
    If e-mailing a newsletter attachment is too 2004 for you, set up a class blog.  Provide all of the content of the newspaper, but online and send brief reminders to parents to check the blog.
  1. Twitter account for homework updates, projects, tests
    If you would like parents to have the ability to write back to you easily, but without total freedom, twitter is a great option.  Send home quick updates and get brief responses from parents.
  1. Make videos of class activities available online – teachertube, youtube, vimeo
    With parent permission, you could shoot video of particularly interesting class activities and then upload the video content to a video sharing website.
  1. Live chats for meetings – skype, iChat etc.
    Why restrict parent teacher meetings to the narrow intersection of the teacher workday and the parents’ availability?  Set up video enhanced meetings online using Skype, iChat, or other video services.
  1. Virtual open house via a live colllaborative session – twiddla, zoho
    There are a few free tools out for live online collaborative sessions.  All of these allow multiple participants to communicate with one another and shared ideas.  A couple options include Twiddla and Zoho, but there are many others.
  1. Online photo collection of class activities – dropevent
    Create a photo gallery for parents to view.  Better yet, give parents the opportunity to share their own photos of school events.  Drop Event is a great new website that allows for such collaboration.

Improper use of Facebook can be detrimental to a teacher’s career.

Janet R. Decker posts at Education Nation the article, ‘Like’ It or Not, Facebook Can Get Teachers Fired:

School employees have constitutional rights that must be protected, but it is also important to protect students and safeguard the image of teachers as role models. Yet, teachers and administrators may be unsure of their legal responsibilities surrounding social networking. Part of the difficulty is that technology advances at a quicker pace than legal precedent. Because of this reality, schools are encouraged to implement policies and consider the following recommendations regarding employees’ online behavior.

1. EDUCATE! It’s not enough to have policies, schools should also have professional development about these issues. By doing so, staff are notified about the expectations and have a chance to digest and ask questions about the policies.

2. Be empathetic in policies and actions. Administrators may wish that a school’s computers only be used for educational purposes, but this is an unrealistic expectation.

3. Create separate student and staff policies, because the laws pertaining to these two groups differ greatly.

4. Involve staff in policy creation. This process will help employees comprehend the policies and will likely foster staff buy-in.

5. Be clear and specific. Policies should include rationales, legal support, and commentary with examples.

6. Ensure your policies conform to state and federal law.

7. Include consequences for violations in your policies and implement the consequences.

8. Provide an avenue for appeal and attend to employees’ due process rights.

9. Implement policies in an effective and non-discriminatory manner.

10. Evaluate and amend policies as the law evolves. Much of the law related to technology is in flux. What is legal today may not be tomorrow.

In sum, it is important that school employees understand that they are expected to be role models both inside and outside of the school – even while on Facebook.

Because information posted on social media can go viral, it is important to use common sense in dealing with both parents and students.


Your School Needs a Facebook Page

How Schools Can Use Facebook to Build an Online Community 

100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Check out Dr. Wilda’s COMMENTS FROM AN OLD FART:

3 Responses to “Managing school Facebook relationships can be challenging”


  1. Stupid is as stupid does: The teacher and the 12-year-old « drwilda - September 29, 2012

    […] Because information posted on social media can go viral, it is important to use common sense in dealing with both parents and students. […]

  2. Improper teacher and student contact often begins with improper social media contact | drwilda - December 3, 2013

    […] Because information posted on social media can go viral, it is important to use common sense in dealing with both parents and students. […]

  3. Parent homework: Common sense from Common Sense Media, family media resolutions | drwilda - January 2, 2014

    […] media can go viral, it is important to use common sense in dealing with both parents and students. Teachers and others in responsible positions who deal with children must exercise common sense and […]

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