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Florida Teachers Barred from Friending Students on Facebook

screenshot of new lee county school district guidelines
School officials in Lee County, Florida have issued a new set of guidelines for the upcoming academic year. This go-round, they're cracking down on Facebook.

As the AFP reports, the newly published protocol explicitly warns district teachers against interacting with their students via social networking sites, in order to avoid the kinds of legal or professional pitfalls that have plagued so many. "It is inappropriate for employees to communicate, regardless of the reason, with current students enrolled in the district on any public social networking Web site," the guidelines read. "This includes becoming 'friends' or allowing students access to personal Web pages for communication reasons." The guidelines also warn against posting personal information or photos, and now prohibit educators from posting any information about their students.

Authorities insist that the new guidelines aren't aimed at restricting teacher activity on Facebook, but are simply designed as safeguards to protect them. "Too many people may not realize what they do in their private life online can come back to cause issues in their professional life, especially in public education," says Robert Dodig, head of the Lee County legal affairs office.

We completely understand the legal impetus behind these guidelines, but it's still an unfortunate reality. Social networking, in theory, could help teachers get to know and understand their students on a more personal level, which, in turn, could influence their approach to teaching. By the same token, interacting with students on Facebook or MySpace may even help "demystify" educators for students, making them feel more comfortable sharing personal things with authority figures. [Ed. note: Hrm. While this is a wonderful sentiment, very few students are going to want their teachers and profs reading updates and posts. Similarly, what about poor teachers that read about after-school activity that is, er, unsavory?] Perhaps students and teachers may eventually find a way to interact on Facebook without jeopardizing careers or privacy. For now, though, it's probably best to cut the lines of communication altogether. [From: AFP/Yahoo!]

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