Quick Takes: NY Ban on Social Media Interaction Between Teachers and Students

Prohibiting Social Media Interactions is Safer for Students

In response to no fewer than 69 cases of inappropriate teacher-student behavior from January to November 2011, the New York City Department of Education released its first social media policy last Tuesday, May 1. This prohibits teachers from using their non-classroom affiliated Facebook, Twitter or Google+ accounts to contact students. The policy will help prevent inappropriate situations and help keep student-teacher relationships professional in the long run.

The new policy will benefit students like Miranda Jackson, from Pearl High School in Mississippi. Jackson’s cheer coach asked for her Facebook password and then used personal messages on the site to get Jackson barred from school events. The NYC DOE’s new policy prohibits teachers from communicating with students over social media about anything that is not strictly class-related. Such a policy would have made the coach’s actions more clearly illegal, better protecting students like Jackson in court.

The policy will also provide much-needed clarification about dubiously legal online behavior. Louise Losos, the principal of Clayton High School in Missouri, was forced to take a leave of absence because she created a Facebook account under a false name, which she used to befriend some three hundred students at the school. She was accused of “spying” by student leaders at the school. The new policy calls for the monitoring of all staff social media activity, making it difficult for this sort of incident to happen in the future. 

The NYC DOE’s new social media policy is a necessary step to prevent inappropriate use of social media by school faculty and staff. Similar policies should be implemented nationwide to protect students from intrusions on their privacy.

— Ayan Kusari
Staff Writer

 Ban Infringes on Teachers’ First Amendment Rights

The New York City Department of Education has prohibited the use of non-school related social media accounts such as Tumblr, Google+, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter by public high school teachers to contact students because of recent incidents of inappropriate behavior. This is an unrealistic restriction that is not only incredibly difficult to legally regulate, but also obstructs the First Amendment rights of teachers.

As social media fluctuates and changes on an hourly basis, evidenced by constant Facebook front-page variations, this ban will be extremely difficult to effectively enforce wrongful interactions. This includes updates to private messaging systems that may make it hard for the government to track old messages. The New York law states that the social media guidelines are subject to change every three months to keep up with said updates. These constant revisions are unrealistic to implement and will make the law too unclear to be properly adhered to.

The recent ban on social media in New York also has a high chance of getting repealed in the coming months. It will most likely follow in the footsteps of the “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act” — passed in Missouri in July 2011 and repealed three months later — that also banned social media interactions between teachers and students. The Missouri Teacher’s Association cited concerns of how the law would affect teachers’ freedoms of speech, and supported its repeal due to the law’s failure to specify whether current or old students were prohibited from staying in contact with teachers. 

Banning social interactions will not solve the problem of inappropriate behavior between teachers and students — this policy is simply too restrictive and too hard to regulate to suffice as a logical solution.

— Andy Liu
Contributing Writer
 

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