Teachers barred from ‘friending’ their students

RANCHO SANTA FE — Should a teacher communicate with students via social networks? The Rancho Santa Fe School District board decided no at its March 3 meeting. In fact, that decision will be put in the teacher’s handbook and the practice strongly discouraged.
Lindy Delaney, the district’s superintendent, asked the board to consider the policy because she said appropriate boundaries should be established between students and teachers.
“I’m not saying teachers are not being appropriate, but my recommendation is that we have a policy that restricts that,” Delaney said. “Sometimes something put on Facebook by an adult is not appropriate for children.”
She said other districts are facing the same issue.
“When I go to the area superintendents meeting, they all feel something needs to happen,” Delaney said. “It’s very important that we have boundaries.”
Jim Depolo, board vice president, said he would be the first to admit that he has no Facebook page.
“I can see all the negatives, but how can we keep in touch in a positive way? Are we eliminating something good?” he asked.
Delaney said that there are many other ways for teachers to keep in touch with students rather than on a social network. On a social network, feelings can be hurt if a teacher “friends” one student and not another and children may also view inappropriate material.
Because it is a growing problem, there needs to be a policy that states clearly that the school district does not want teachers using social networks, said Richard Currier, the district’s legal counsel.
He also said the Rancho Santa Fe School District would be a front runner in establishing such a policy, but that it could modified in the future.
“We can always come back and revisit the policy,” he said.
Trustee Todd Frank asked how the new policy would be accepted by the staff.
“I think it’s common sense,” said Kim Pinkerton, elementary school principal. “We like to have our private lives and I think most teachers would be in agreement.”
She said some teachers do keep in touch with former students, but wait until they are in college to “friend” them.
Trustee Jim Cimino said he does not have a Facebook page either and acknowledged that things are changing quickly.
He said when he was using a slide rule in college, he had no idea that technology would advance to the point where students do their homework on computers.
The board voted unanimously in favor of the new policy.