The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

July 27, 2012

READER'S LETTER: Teachers, districts must review social networking policies as school begins

Letter to the Editor

CLINTON — Soon teachers will be going back to in-service in their districts.

As a former teacher, I have a suggestion for local school leaders — put this topic high on your agenda at in-service: Teachers and Facebook.   

Unfortunately teachers already deal with the misuse of cell phones in the classrooms.  

Guidance counselors already deal with Facebook wars.  

The advantages of technology in the classroom are tremendous, but social networking sites like Facebook are dangerous, particularly when teachers invite students to be friends.   

The Dec. 10, 2010, issue of the School Leader Update (p. 15), a newsletter put out by the Iowa Department of Education, addressed the issue of Facebook in its “Legal Lessons” section.  The legal department gave “Policy Pointers” to educators on the subject. 

It recommended that “educators limit student access to their site (Better yet, prohibit student access to any personal site not maintained solely for instructional purposes), never post images of students, keep a strictly professional relationship with students on such a site, and do not ask to be a student’s friend on the student’s site and do not accept a student’s invitation to be his/her friend.”    

When Facebook started, I joined just to see what my students were talking about.  I accepted one friend and as soon as I did, I was bombarded with friend requests.  I never accepted another student.  The red flag, for me, at least, had gone up.  

I strongly believe that the staff, school boards, and administration in all Iowa districts have an obligation to listen to the advice of the Department of Education and ask their teachers to stop social networking with students.

The Northeast, East Central, and Preston districts are troubled due to merger issues. Facebook is contributing to the unrest.  Kids watch what adults do and say. They spend tons of time social networking via cell phones, tablets, iPods, you name it.

I ask all school leaders, whatever district they belong to, to discuss the topic Teachers and Facebook in the days ahead.  

I ask all educators (administration and school board included) in all districts, whose students listen to them and respect them, to review their use of Facebook.

Laurel Gruhn,

Former English and technology instructor, East Central Middle School