Public school teachers in New York City may no longer contact students through personal pages on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, according to the Education Department's first set of social media policy guidelines released on Tuesday. (Take a look at a recent discussion forum in which we asked teachers to weigh in on these impending guidelines. Their responses were more varied than you might expect.)
The New York Times reports that while the guidelines do allow teachers to use social media, they can only communicate with their students on classroom pages set up for those purposes, and only after obtaining a supervisor's approval to set up a classroom page. The paper also states that in the past several years, there have been dozens of cases involving inappropriate teacher-student relationships that began or were conducted on social media sites.
Michael Mulgrew, president of New York's United Federation of Teachers, told the paper that he worried the guidelines would discourage teachers from using social media tools. "The D.O.E. is basically telling the people who have gone above and beyond to make education more interactive, 'Hey, if you want to do it, you do it at your own peril,'" said Mulgrew.
The Times also points out that the guidelines do not address teacher-student communication via cellphones or text messaging, despite the fact that there have also been numerous teachers in New York under investigation for improper cellphone communication with students. A New York official spokesman, Matthew Mittental, told the paper that the last thing the Education Department wants to do is "prohibit communication and prevent a teacher from helping a student in distress, even if that means making a phone call." Even so, teachers who use cellphones inappropriately could still be disciplined.
Education Week reporter Michelle Davis wrote about the new social-media guidelines in more detail here.