Friends list

Line be­tween stu­dent and teacher re­de­fined on so­cial net­work­ing sites

The Covington News - - OPINION - By Jenny Thompson

Dur­ing the past few years so­cial net­work­ing Web sites such as Face­book and MyS­pace have ex­ploded in pop­u­lar­ity, es­pe­cially with the 18- to 25year-old crowd.

Teens and young adults log on ev­ery day to see what friends have com­mented about on their page, posted new pho­to­graphs or who’s in­volved with whom.

New teach­ers some­times start their first jobs with pro­files laced with pic­tures and posts il­lus­trat­ing late-night, col­lege in­dis­cre­tions — pro­files some stu­dents may be able to view.

The New­ton County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion and the state board, like so many oth­ers across the coun­try, do not have poli­cies specif­i­cally ad­dress­ing teach­ers’ ma­te­rial or con­duct on so­cial net­work­ing sites.

“We have a pol­icy on staffs­tu­dent re­la­tions and of course all teach­ers are ex­pected to fol­low the code of ethics, but we do not have a par­tic­u­lar pol­icy on the use of Face­book or MyS­pace,” said Sherri Viniard, New­ton County School Sys­tem di­rec­tor of pub­lic re­la­tions. “It would be im­pos­si­ble to make a spe­cific pol­icy to cover ev­ery sit­u­a­tion.”

The board’s pol­icy fo­cuses on re­spect teach­ers should show to­ward stu­dents and vice versa.

The Ge­or­gia Code of Ethics for Ed­u­ca­tors out­lines abuse of stu­dents as not main­tain­ing a pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship with all stu­dents, both in and out­side the class­room.

Un­eth­i­cal con­duct of course in­cludes men­tal or phys­i­cal abuse or ha­rass­ment, com­mit­ting or solic­it­ing sex­ual acts and fur­nish­ing or al­low­ing stu­dents to con­sume al­co­hol, to­bacco or il­le­gal drugs. It also in­cludes “solic­it­ing, en­cour­ag­ing or con­sum­mat­ing an in­ap­pro­pri­ate writ­ten, ver­bal or phys­i­cal re­la­tion­ship with a stu­dent.”

New­ton County stu­dents say they have added teach­ers to their ros­ters of friends on th­ese sites and teach­ers have re­quested their friend­ship, but noth­ing about their in­ter­ac­tion has been in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

He­len Laseter, 2007 East­side High grad­u­ate, ex­plained why she joined Face­book.

“I joined Face­book af­ter my brother went to col­lege to stay in touch with him and his friends who I met when I spent the week­end with him,” Laseter said.

She said like most users she also has a MyS­pace ac­count, and checks both ac­counts daily for vary­ing amounts of time.

“Ba­si­cally, if I’m bored and my com­puter’s around I get on and see what ev­ery­one’s up to,” Laseter said.

Laseter is friends with a teacher from her sopho­more year. She said the teacher moved away and later re­quested Laseter add her to her friends. Be­cause the teacher was one of Laseter’s fa­vorites, she ex­cit­edly ac­cepted her friend re­quest.

“I would be very cau­tious in be­friend­ing a cur­rent teacher,” Laseter said. “It would have to be a teacher that I was very close to and thor­oughly en­joy his or her class.”

Keala Smith grad­u­ated from New­ton High this spring and said she also has some of her for­mer teach­ers as friends on Face­book and MyS­pace.

“My teach­ers didn’t ac­cept me un­til I grad­u­ated, and I think its okay if the stu­dent is of le­gal age,” Smith said. “I mean, teach­ers have friends too and I know they like to keep in touch with old class­mates and friends just like we do.

“If we are al­lowed to have net­works, so are they.”

She said she ex­pected her teach­ers to have squeaky clean pro­files, and in­deed, none of her teacher friends had any in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tent on their pages.

Krista Maldin, a 2007 Al­covy High grad­u­ate, said her teach­ers also thought it in­ap­pro­pri­ate to ac­cept friend re­quests from stu­dents while they were still in their class­rooms.

“I had sev­eral teach­ers that were just fun in class,” Mauldin said, “so af­ter grad­u­a­tion we have added each other to MyS­pace.”

Laseter said the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of stu­dent/teacher in­terac- tion on so­cial net­work­ing sites re­lied on what the stu­dent’s could see on a teacher’s page.

“I think that as long as the teacher isn’t post­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate pic­tures and such for their stu­dents to see, that it is a great way to make con­nec­tions with their stu­dents,” Laseter said.

Allen Scott, New­ton High grad­u­ate in 2007, sim­ply stated his opin­ion of teach­ers and stu­dents adding each other as friends on so­cial net­work­ing sites.

“I don’t have a prob­lem with it,” Scott said.

Photo il­lus­tra­tion by

Dig­i­tal age: As both stu­dents and teach­ers be­come en­gaged with on­line so­cial net­work­ing sites, some in­ter­ac­tion is in­evitable.

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