Globe Editorial

Teachers: Friends, not ‘friends’

October 31, 2010

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A teacher, especially a great one, is a student’s best friend. But students and teachers shouldn’t be swapping personal information through Facebook. A new policy enacted by the Norton school board that bans teachers from becoming Facebook friends with students on social media sites is a simple lesson in common sense. Even in today’s brave, new world of virtual relationships, there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. This policy wisely addresses one of them.

In doing so, Norton embraces statewide recommendations issued by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, which urge school officials of the “importance of maintaining proper decorum in the online, digital world’’ and warn against “improper fraternization’’ with students using Facebook and similar Internet sites or social networks.

The policy is designed to protect children, but it also protects teachers from inserting themselves into situations that could be open to misinterpretation. In Norton, officials said the policy was not initiated because of any specific incident. However, it comes in the wake of reports that three educators from New York City high schools were fired for having inappropriate Facebook interaction with students.

Some argue that the policy interferes with free speech and assembly rights. Others contend that teachers and students should communicate more, not less. At the college level, that may be true. But from kindergarten to high school, teachers should not need social media to reinforce their lesson plans. If a student has questions outside the classroom, email provides sufficient connection.

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