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NYC Teachers Forbidden To "Friend" Students 238

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-friend-list-of-mine dept.
betterunixthanunix writes "The New York City Department of Education has issued rules covering student-teacher interactions on social networking websites. Following numerous inappropriate relationships between students and teachers that began on social networking sites, the rules prohibit teachers from communicating with students using their 'personal' accounts, and requires parental consent before students can participate in social networking for educational purposes. The rules also state that teachers have no expectation of privacy online, and that principals and other officials will inspect teachers' profiles. Oddly, the rules do not address communication involving cell phones, which the Department of Education's own investigations have shown to be even more problematic."
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NYC Teachers Forbidden To "Friend" Students

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  • Good. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Good. That behavior is unprofessional.

    • So, are you saying that you lost touch with your teachers, especially the ones you really liked, after the year got over? Since, that is absurd, I'll assume you haven't.

      So, let's say you add your teacher on FB after the year. What do you do when the same teacher takes a class for you the following year? Do you un-friend them? Even if you _do_ unfriend them, it doesn't solve the main problem, which is innate bias from some teachers to some students.

      What needs to be done is that, all teachers that favor a sel

      • A teacher and student still at the same are not appropriate friends until either leaves the school.
        • by rilian4 (591569)
          Your statement is over-broad. In general, you might be correct but what if, for example, that teacher has kids that are best friends with a student in the school s/he teaches in? What if that teacher is something like a scout-master and interacts w/ students that way outside of school? What if they wish to use social media in those ways? Why would that be wrong all of a sudden? I could go on all day with examples...

          The problem here is in defining a non-harmful action (in this case friending someone throug
    • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

      by justin12345 (846440) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:05PM (#39874367)
      Read the WSJ's publication of the actual policy. It essentially prohibits teachers from actively using the internet except in a professionally approved setting, unless they can be certain that their privacy (anonymity) is assured.

      It's not just about Facebook. If you're a teacher and you have a blog (even one you intended to be anonymous) and you students comment on it you could face disciplinary action. The way it's worded even an unauthorized slashdot post could be construed as inappropriate contact if a student posts in the same thread and knows the teacher's handle.
    • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:59PM (#39874765) Homepage

      Good. That behavior is unprofessional.

      No, it's not unprofessional. I'm guessing you didn't grow up at the end of the era where having teachers over for dinner was common. Didn't end all that long ago, just back in the 90's. Most of my favorite teachers came over on my invite, with the permission of my parents.

      I'm still in touch with a couple of them, about half of them are dead. But my mechanics, science and history teachers? When I'm back in the americas they still come over to visit, and hear about my travels and take things that I've brought or pictures or other tidbits to show their classes. Hell I've spoken infront of their classes in the last 3 years, and I'm nobody important, just someone who has a fascination with learning and traveling.

      • by Ritchie70 (860516)

        It depends on what behavior.

        Social networks tend to show EVERYTHING about people who truly use them as they are intended.

        Is it OK for a teacher to be friends with students, visit with them and their parents, and so forth? Absolutely.

        Is it OK for students to see their teacher's private life - including all the stupid stuff that they did 5 years ago? Probably not, especially not at the primary grades - kids don't need to see adult stuff.

        My sister teaches dance at a private dance school. She refuses to friend

        • Re:Good. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by neyla (2455118) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @03:17AM (#39876335)

          Right. Let's create a separate "kids" world. The kids-world will have no swearing, no nudity, no death, no kissing, no money-problems, no divorces. Let's do our level best to shut our kids in these fictional, boring, sterile, pink-plastic worlds, where they can grow up dealing as little as possible with the real world.

          Then, once they hit some magical age, 14 or 18 or whatever, let's open the floodgates and assume they're now well-prepared to deal with a world we've done our level best to ensure they've learnt nothing about.

          On second thought, let's not do that. Instead, let's be guides and teachers to the real world. Let's try to explain in language a child can understand, rather than try to hide.

          • Part of being a guide and teacher is not throwing your student into a situation they can't deal with. We shouldn't completely avoid the topics as many are wont to do, but there is a place for selectively censoring the content that goes to a child. Further, another authority figure in my child's life shouldn't arbitrarily decide to overexpose my child on serious matters without some warning or discussion with me or my wife.
  • Freedom (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:11PM (#39873363)

    Freedom of association? Does that apply? Why do educators seem to love tossing out personal rights and freedoms? Between this, video cameras on laptops, insisting on viewing personal accounts, etc, it's just disheartening. Why not RFID tag them all or lock them in cells on their personal time?

    • Re:Freedom (Score:5, Insightful)

      by idontgno (624372) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:18PM (#39873429) Journal

      It does seem like a pretty poor recruiting pitch.

      Hey! We need you! Your students will hate you, your administration will suspect you, you'll be paid a pittance for long hours and much work, you'll be subject to every lawsuit a disgruntled punk can talk his drunken mother into starting, you'll pay for your supplies out of pocket, we may have to lay you off with almost no warning, and we'll be spying on you on-line. But other than that, it's a dream job!

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      I wonder if this includes ex-students? I friended several of my former teachers.

      The solution seems simple enough... make your facebook profile private, so the school administrators can't see who you friended. The courts have already ruled employers can't demand your password to see what's behind the privacy wall.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      I don't think freedom of association applies under 18.

    • Re:Freedom (Score:4, Informative)

      by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @07:08PM (#39873815)

      Freedom of Association is nowhere mentioned in the US Constitution. The right mentioned there is Freedom of Assembly.

      The Supreme Court has ruled that such an implied right exists, however there are limits. For example you cannot refuse to sell beer to somebody because you don't like the color of their skin. On the other hand it is permissible for the state to make a law that you can't sell beer to someone who is below a certain age.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Freedom of Association is nowhere mentioned in the US Constitution. The right mentioned there is Freedom of Assembly.

        The constitution was never meant to enumerate rights.

        Supreme Court has ruled that such an implied right exists, however there are limits. For example you cannot refuse to sell beer to somebody because you don't like the color of their skin.

        Yes, but that has nothing to do with the freedom of association, but with the lack of a right to discriminate against people based on certain specific criteria which are enumerated in federal law, or in the case of California, state law.

        On the other hand it is permissible for the state to make a law that you can't sell beer to someone who is below a certain age.

        Which doesn't address this issue at all, but nice prevarication.

        • by ArsonSmith (13997)

          "The constitution was never meant to enumerate rights."

          Yes, but it does had all things not mentioned, first to the state, then to the individual. This is the state exercising it's rights.

    • Actually, if I were a teacher, I think I'd be OK with this. If you friend a few of your students, then you'd have to friend all of them in order to avoid the appearance of favoritism, and if other teachers were doing it there would be pressure to do it yourself as well. So, instead of having to say, "No, you can't be my friend," you can simply cite the law.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Really it doesn't make sense. You can have teachers and students members of the same sports and social clubs, teachers who are after hours coaches, teachers who are members of guides and scouts.

        This is really pushing the bounds of making all one on one student teacher contacts risky and being perceived as potentially sexually abusive.

        Some adults will abuse any kind of contact with children, crazy over-reaction and banning any contact situation that a bad adult has abused is utterly pointless ie. adult

  • by kenh (9056) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:13PM (#39873385) Homepage Journal

    I hope they worked out the boundary cases (teachers that are parents of students, etc). But by and large I think this is a reasonable first step.

    No, I'm not trying to deny the inevitable march into social media, but the issues with Facebook friending are:

    - possibility of mixing work and personal lives of teachers - there are many things that teachers are expected to not do in and around students in school, including students into their private social media could create problems

    - inability of schools to monitor relationships between students and teachers, hoping to detect, if not prevent them from happening

    When I last read about this type of issue, the proposed law was very clear - is a school district runs a Facebook-like web site that includes the ability to monitor communications between employees (teachers) and customers (students) that was fine.

    Why do teachers need to 'friend' under-age students of theirs? And no, arguing that this is how kids want to communicate with their teachers isn't good enough - there are too many alternatives for teachers to answer questions, distribute class work, etc.

    • by BootysnapChristAlive (2629837) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:22PM (#39873461)

      - possibility of mixing work and personal lives of teachers - there are many things that teachers are expected to not do in and around students in school, including students into their private social media could create problems

      - inability of schools to monitor relationships between students and teachers, hoping to detect, if not prevent them from happening

      So basically, an entire group of people should be banned from doing something merely because some people in that group may do things that some people do not agree with? You only speak of possibilities here. This is a perfect example of a collective punishment mentality.

      Why do teachers need to 'friend' under-age students of theirs?

      Why do you need to get on Facebook? Why do you need entertainment? How about, "Why not?" You just waive off all of their opinions just like that. There are few things that people "need." I'd prefer to not live in fear that teachers will abuse their power. I'd prefer to not punish all of them merely because some of them could do so.

      • by hoppo (254995)

        So basically, an entire group of people should be banned from doing something merely because some people in that group may do things that some people do not agree with? You only speak of possibilities here. This is a perfect example of a collective punishment mentality.

        Wrong. This is an example of setting boundaries. It is generally inappropriate for students and teachers to have social relationships. Ethics 101.

        • by digitig (1056110)

          Wrong. This is an example of setting boundaries. It is generally inappropriate for students and teachers to have social relationships. Ethics 101.

          Why? It's only a problem if you make it a problem. I knew some of my teachers socially because we were part of the same community. Try watching Être et avoir before seeing wrong where there is none.

        • Wrong.

          You say I'm wrong, but then you proceed to state exactly what I just spoke out against. You're just punishing an entire group of people for what a few of them could do. Then you label it as "setting boundaries" as if that will change what it truly is.

          It is generally inappropriate for students and teachers to have social relationships. Ethics 101.

          It's appropriate. Ethics 101. There. My argument is complete, and you are defeated!

      • by kiwimate (458274)

        Way too many possibilities, that's the problem. Any time this topic comes up in social discussions everyone in the room agrees it's just dumb. Look, a teacher is an enormous authority figure, and has an extraordinary amount of power. Ever heard of the saying "with great power comes great responsibility"? There's another saying about avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. Teenagers are raging full of hormones and emotions and angst and anger and everything. And they seem compelled to spill hat out on F

      • by swillden (191260)

        So basically, an entire group of people should be banned from doing something merely because some people in that group may do things that some people do not agree with?

        Yes.

        IMO, if there's a problem with this policy, it's that it has to be officially articulated at all. It should be obvious to any teacher that it's unprofessional to have social interactions with their students.

    • by TavisJohn (961472) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:30PM (#39873523) Homepage

      I would never distribute work or anything important through Facebook. With their ever changing landscape of what they think you do and do not want to see, you can never know if the students actually SEE the postings!

      E-mail is far more effective and reliable. And if the student's do not like that, tough. In College if the teacher says to use e-mail, you use e-mail.

      • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:58PM (#39873755)

        In university about half my students in classes will tend to befriend me on facebook (it's a bit less than that but close enough). Anytime anything out of the ordinary happens I posted it on facebook, as well as via e-mail.

        Students are *far* more likely to get a facebook message than they are an e-mail. Lots of them, and, frankly this baffles me because it's the same device, will check facebook on the bus etc. but not e-mail. I suppose that's in part because the university has a habit of sending out a lot of crap that they don't care about, whereas on facebook the information they don't care about now can be easily skimmed over.

        Doing anything 'regular' on facebook, course notes assignments that sort of thing doesn't make a lot of sense. Virtually all universities have some sort of classroom management software (webct/blackboard/sakai etc.) for that stuff, and students need to check that on a daily basis for work stuff. But if class is canceled, or a particular lab is closed, elevator not working, that sort of thing, facebook is much more effective than e-mail. I'm not sure that makes sense in highschool since highschools aren't usually giant tens of thousands of persons campuses with a huge number of people coming and going in dozens of buildings at different times.

        The biggest plus I've found to facebook is when the students graduate you get to know what they're doing. And, importantly, you can connect them to the next batch of students looking for work and so on. One of my students from 3 years ago works at amazon, so I sent him a graduate who's super excited about amazon this year sort of thing. Again, I'm not sure that would make as much sense at the highshool level, although it's always nice to know what your former students are up to.

        • by TavisJohn (961472)

          E-Mail can just as easily be skimmed over. Several of my sister-in-laws college teachers basically told the class, "I do not use Facebook for school. All school related contact will be done via e-mail. No exceptions."
          They had Facebook accounts, and you could friend them, but any discussions, questions, or classwork was to be sent via e-mail only. Some student's complained, but the teacher wanted what was easier for them.

          • by Sir_Sri (199544)

            Can be - but isn't. that was my point. As an instructor you are certainly under no obligation to even try and use facebook, nor should you if you aren't comfortable doing so. I was merely relaying my single data point of experience.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      I concur.

      And while we're at, because there has been a rampant rash of accidents leading to kids losing parents, I propose we ban all parents (or teachers) from driving a car. And since accounts have been stolen, no more online banking. And because utorrent is used for piracy, forbade U.S. citizens from visiting it. And playboy is sometimes seen by underage students too, so I recommend that & all other nude sites be forbidden.

      I'm sure you have no problem with my modest proposal. (Or..... we could st

    • by Vancorps (746090) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:09PM (#39874389)

      I wonder where this idea that teachers shouldn't be part of the lives of students came from. I think all the media attention has overblown the issue so far that people think teachers should just be robots regurgitating facts and giving standardized tests. I remember growing up and teachers in high school would stay late or be part of extracurricular clubs. Hell, I learned Linux through a work shop, we'd all bring in computers and throw on Slack or Red Hat back in the early days. It wasn't an issue for our teacher to be there, he lined up a lot of resources for us.

      As for "needing to friend," no one needs to friend anybody but a lot of people do it and it's a great way to collaborate on homework for schools that don't have the resources for real virtual assistance services. More to the point though, why not? How is a teacher accepting a student as a friend on Facebook detrimental? As stated before, as long as any student who asks gets accepted there is no appearance of impropriety or favoritism.

      This looks like another administration stab at limiting liability rather than trying to protect students or teachers. Fear of lawsuits is the biggest problem with public education, it's also a huge issue with the healthcare system driving up costs for both.

    • When I last read about this type of issue, the proposed law was very clear - is a school district runs a Facebook-like web site that includes the ability to monitor communications between employees (teachers) and customers (students) that was fine.

      That does not sound "fine" to me -- it sounds like you are teaching students that there is some grand authority in the world that watches what they do and who they talk to. That is not something I would want my children to be taught in school.

      Why do teachers need to 'friend' under-age students of theirs?

      Some teachers have "fan clubs" -- I remember seeing that sort of behavior all the time when I was in high school. Telling teachers that they cannot have students friend them on Facebook is basically saying that there cannot be an expression of these fan clubs onl

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:14PM (#39873389)

    Why don't you also ban teachers from talking to students if they see them in a mall or on the street? This smacks of some luddite shithead who dislikes Facebook deciding on behalf of other people who should use it and how they should use it.

    The real issue is that people use their personal social networking accounts to broadcast inappropriate information to all their "friends" (who are really aquaintances). I'm afraid that's dangerous no matter what your profession. 200+ people do NOT need to know that you got drunk, took drugs, got laid, are depressed, like inappropriate jokes, hate work, that your kid vomited, or that your pet did something cute. Thing is it should be self-policed, not regulated.

    So what happens if the Facebook profile is public? Is the teacher automatically fired? And if it's not public how the hell do you police this? How do you determine a breach has occurred? Do you force them to reveal their passwords to you regularly? Do you force all students? Are we talking NYC or China here? Perhaps you want teachers to stay off the social networks. Anti-social teachers are the new gold standard.

    The sad thing is teachers who use social media for outreach, to post interesting things, to share education resources....they just get left out in the cold because they are drowned out by the hoard of immature ego-centric Facebook addicted teachers with no life who won't use any resource appropriately no matter how you govern it.

    Collectively we all get what we deserve...and at the moment that is a society in steep decline.

    • by bmo (77928)

      Why is this modded flamebait?

      Because of foul language? He brings some valid points to the discussion.

      Especially this: So what happens if the Facebook profile is public? Is the teacher automatically fired?

      Yeah, I would like to know too.

      To whoever modded this flamebait: untwist your panties, and undo your mod.

      --
      BMO

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:16PM (#39873401)

    I went to school in the 1960's, and obviously social networking and the internet were not a factor. I can't say there were any fewer problems then, but the major difference I see is that were not all afraid.

    I'm sure there were unethical and inappropriate contacts between teachers and students then just as now, but it seems like if there was a problem, it was dealt with, but we didn't feel the need to live paranoid lives where everyone was a potential predator and rules about who could talk to who, when, and where had to be put all over the place. If you wanted to see a teacher 1:1 outside of school, you were free to do that. Some students did who were having family problems, sometimes with abusive parents, and they had no one else to turn to.

    These days... everyone is afraid of their shadows. How the world has changed.

  • This collective punishment mentality is great.

  • ....using social networks is still vain and silly.

  • But... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by evil_aaronm (671521) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:25PM (#39873481)

    The rules also state that teachers have no expectation of privacy online, and that principals and other officials will inspect teachers' profiles.

    How does this square with the federal legislation wending its way through the system that would prevent employers from looking at social networking data of employees?

    Oddly, the rules do not address communication involving cell phones, which the Department of Education's own investigations have shown to be even more problematic.

    I'll say. My small community had a teacher busted for sexting a student. And when I was a kid, way back before the 'net and cell phones, there were rumors that certain teachers would give certain students "extra-curricular" attention. One teacher in our local district ended up marrying a student. It happened after the student graduated, but there were rumors that "stuff" was going on between them while the student was still in school.

    I'm not sure technology has much to do with it: if teachers and students really want to hook up, they'll find a way.

    • The rules also state that teachers have no expectation of privacy online, and that principals and other officials will inspect teachers' profiles.

      How does this square with the federal legislation wending its way through the system that would prevent employers from looking at social networking data of employees?

      Well, historically, a lot of legislation of this sort has had an exception for government employees.

      Which, if it's not obvious, public school teachers are....

  • This is quite obviously unconstitutional
    • I guess you didn't pass the section on the Constitution. "Freedom of Association" isn't mentioned there.

      • by Fned (43219)

        I guess you didn't pass the section on the Constitution. "Freedom of Association" isn't mentioned there.

        It's an inherent prerequisite for freedom of assembly. See NAACP v. Alabama.

        You can argue "judicial activism" if you want, but you'd then also have to argue that assembly is somehow possible without association, which would be a neat trick...

  • I worked at a high school for a couple years and I wanted my job and the kids kept far apart. You friend your students and now they're a part of your social life whether you like it or not. Anything anyone else does on your list is now associated with your career as a teacher, and that could be extremely disruptive to your classroom. It annoyed me to no end to go out for a night on the town and see underage girls who the bouncers had allowed in (they'd scurry like cockroaches when they saw a teacher).

  • I still don't get why people are trying to legislate rules ban teachers from "friending" students on social media sites. Shouldn't that be between the teacher, the parents, and the student? Why can't teachers and students be friends?
  • Friending your students on Facebook makes your page public for all practical purposes. It's really easy, as a university professor, to find that your work and teaching life intrudes just a little too much on your private life, and I imagine the same is true for high school teachers, for example. I keep Facebook for real-life friends and a few colleagues. However, it is very important to students to have some form of contact with you that is outside the university environment. A little while ago, I broke dow
  • by tlambert (566799) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:38PM (#39874579)

    Does Khan Academy http://www.khanacademy.org/ [khanacademy.org] count as a "social network" according to the New York City Department of Education?

    -- Terry

  • by BitterOak (537666) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:41PM (#39874623)
    This rule, mentioned in the summary has me wondering:

    The rules also state that teachers have no expectation of privacy online, and that principals and other officials will inspect teachers' profiles.

    Does this mean that teachers will be required to accept friend requests from principals or other superior school officials so they can inspect their Facebook profiles and examine their friends lists? I understand having no expectation of privacy online as far as publicly posted material goes, but will teachers be required to give their superiors special access? For my own Facebook profile, if you're not a friend, all you can see is my name and profile pic, nothing else. I'm curious if teachers would be required to make more available to their superiors under this rule.

  • and everyone from the teacher unions to the ACLU started to file law suits until it was repealed. I work for a Missouri school district IT department and this is a big issue right now. The two biggest issues is what counts a social networking site, a lot of the web classroom programs share social networking aspects. The other issue is it is impossible to enforce unless someone rats them out or its discovered after the teacher did something else.
  • Crazy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s0nicfreak (615390) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @11:10PM (#39875469) Homepage Journal
    Parents don't trust these teachers to not molest their children through the internet, yet they leave their children in classrooms physically inches away from these teachers for hours 5 days a week. If you do not trust these people completely, why would you leave your child with them?!

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