CJA Poll: Should Teachers Be Allowed to ”Friend” Students on Facebook?

In an effort to reduce the possibility of inappropriate contact between teachers and students, a provision in a new Missouri law (signed by Governor Jay Nixon on July 14) prohibits K-12 teachers from “friending” current and former students on Facebook or having similar one-on-one relationships on other social media. Maintaining a work-related website that’s fully accessible to both school administrators and to the childrens’ parent/guardians, however, is permitted — as well as e-mail communication between student and teacher, which seems to offer the same potential for inappropriate contact as Facebook friending.

My own thought on the subject is that this is a useless display of overkill. That being said, of course, I’m assuming that teachers are setting up separate Facebook accounts to communicate with students, rather than sharing with them the minutiae and personal details of their lives — which as the very least, would be a bit creepy.

Your thoughts?

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13 Responses to CJA Poll: Should Teachers Be Allowed to ”Friend” Students on Facebook?

  1. Clem Smythe Clem Smythe says:

    IMHO, it’s inappropriate for teachers to friend current students at the K-12 level. Once the student has graduated/left the school, however, I don’t see any problem with then becoming a FB friend.

  2. Powers Powers says:

    Your assumption strikes me as ridiculously naive (not to mention, anyone who did so would be in contravention of Facebook’s terms of service). I think it’s exactly the “minutia-sharers” at whom this legislation is aimed.

  3. Kat Kat says:

    While I think it’s awkward to be “friends” with a grade schooler, once they grow up and become young adults, I see absolutely no problem in a teacher being a friend! I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for 2 of my teachers in high school I would be here right now. They were caring people who took their job to the next level. Yes, there are some bad apples out there, but PLEASE don’t allow them to spoil the whole orchard!

  4. James Pollock James Pollock says:

    If they’re having inappropriate relationships with students, having (or not having) a facebook relationship is rather trivial. On the other hand, having a facebook relationship is VERY visible.

    The REAL danger of facebook relationships is that the outside-of-school details of either the student’s or the teacher’s lives will blend into the facebook relationship.

    Once the student achieves majority and is no longer a student of that teacher, it stops being the school’s business what sort of relationship they have.

    The best solution to the real, but rare, case of the teacher who has inappropriate relationships with students is to require that the administration have passwords for all accounts used to communicate with students, and a privacy policy that allows administrators to monitor the use of these accounts.

  5. Keera Keera says:

    I say “no” to friending current students for the same reason bosses and co-workers shouldn’t be friends: You’re not supposed to know personal stuff about certain people (especially in a hierarchy) because it can be misused or have unintended influence.

  6. PeterW PeterW says:

    In school, I had a policy not to friend current teachers, and then once I was certain I’d never have a class with them again, they’d be subject to the standard scrutiny I have for determining whether to friend people I know.

    I think if the students are old enough to have an account without violating the terms of service, e-friendships ought to be allowed. Shockingly, students develop platonic friendships with their teachers.

    However, teachers ought to be instructed to put extra thought into whether to accept, since their students may not have the appropriate amount of forethought themselves. Although they probably already do, as they’ve heard at least as much about keeping your online presence respectable as their students have, and are mature enough to let that lesson sink in.

  7. John Small Berries John Small Berries says:

    Oh, good, “the land of the free” is now moving into the phase where the government may dictate how and when citizens may associate or communicate with others, regardless of whether or not there is any actual wrongdoing.

    But, hey, as long as we’re going to go down this path, how soon will we see a law preventing children from being alone in a room with a clergyman?

  8. Singapore Bill Singapore Bill says:

    I said “yes” to the poll, but with the caveat that it’d probably show pretty poor judgement on the teacher’s part. I’ve been a teacher and know that you need to keep a certain amount of distance from your student and keep things professional. You can be caring, approachable, and supportive, but you have to have defined boundaries. If I were doing it, I’d have a separate FB for the students. Even then, I think the problem is that the students may share far more than you want to know. Things that, in good conscience, you must bring to the attention of parents, administrators, or the law. I’d rather not be in that position.

    • Chemgal Chemgal says:

      As a fellow teacher, I agree. I teach adults and would personally never choose to friend a current student for the above reasons, but I do not think it should be legislated that I can’t.

  9. billbickel billbickel says:

    Singapore Bill, I agree with 100% of what you wrote, and would add just one thing: the teacher should make sure that students know up front that if they mention anything illegal or dangerous (to themselves or others), he has an obligation as a teacher to pass it along.

  10. Jim in Phx Jim in Phx says:

    I answered “No”. I believe the teacher would serve the same purpose by giving his/her email address to the students and telling them to send an email if they had any questions on assignments or issues they wanted to talk about where a teacher, like a priest, could really help them. Facebook is too personal and inappropriate for teacher-student information sharing. That’s my $0.02.

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