Teachers and Social Media

It has recently come to the attention of CEA that some teachers are getting Facebook requests that are making them uncomfortable. Not only should CEA members feel absolutely no obligation to accept these friend requests, CEA recommends that you absolutely  DO NOT accept these requests. While I’m certain no one has anything inappropriate posted to their Facebook pages, it’s better to error on the side of caution lest one of us finds ourself in the same situation as Melissa Cairns from Akron Public Schools (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/22/melissa-cairns-ohio-teach_n_2529166.html), June Talvitie-Siple from Massachusetts (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-firing-teacher-loses-job-commenting-students-parents/story?id=11437248#.UUy_gc1FVpM), or the Georgia teacher who was fired for posting a photo of herself on vacation, drinking a beer.

On the surface, it may appear that a school would have to right to interfere with any kind of personal correspondence; however, “According to the U.S. Constitution, citizens have speech and association rights under the First Amendment and privacy rights under the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments. However, the U.S. Supreme Court as well as lower courts have determined school employees’ constitutional rights are not without limitations. Additionally, certain federal and state laws outline unique responsibilities of school employees based on their special role in educating and protecting children. Thus, courts have upheld teacher dismissals when a nexus exists between teachers’ private behavior and their teaching effectiveness” (www.educationnation.com/index.cfm?objectid=72C543DE-4EA0-11E1-B607000C296BA163).
This same advice should be applied to all administrators, and perhaps, even to your colleagues. Keeping your professional life as separate from your personal online life as possible may prevent situations like the ones above from happening. It goes without saying that teachers should not be Facebook friends with any current students, and you should also be very cautious about friending recently graduated students, especially if those students still have siblings in school. In fact, having ANY electronic contact with current students without the express written consent of their parents is a violation of your Acceptable Use Policy.
Although this advice may seem extreme, it is actually OEA’s recommendation that teachers have no social media accounts at all. That may certainly be considered too severe for most of us, but please be very cautious when using any social media.
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