Teachers and Social Networks

By Naomi Dillon

June Talvitie Siple was blowing off steam, frustrated by the “political activity” that was making her work life miserable. To make matters worse, she was sick. Again. So, the high school administrator vented on her Facebook page to what she thought was a small network of her online friends.

The unfortunate ubiquity of these scenarios makes it easy to predict what happened next: Siple resigned after parents discovered her cyber rants, which included calling community members “arrogant” and “snobby” and students “germ bags.”

What’s not so easy to determine is what school districts can do from the outset to prevent sticky, awkward, and at times, illicit activities from occurring in this age of information or, some would say, information overload.

Popular social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have changed the way people communicate and connect, and school districts have been affected, too. Districts all over the country are dealing with teachers who inappropriately contact students using social media; school employees who post complaints on their social networking pages that they believe is limited to a friendly audience; and other similar scenarios.

While scads of attention and literature have focused on protecting and guiding student use of these new technologies, the same diligence has not been paid to covering actions by district staff and faculty, many of whom use these tools as regularly as their students do.

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