Virginia May Ban Teachers From Facebooking With Students

Virginia might ban public school employees from communicating with students on Facebook, depending on a January 13 vote.

School teachers may be officially discouraged, if not completely banned, from communicating with students via Facebook, depending on the outcome of a January 13 vote by the Virginia Department of Education.

The state educational agency may set an example for others in the U.S. in requiring teachers to deny or ignore friend requests from students.

This would comply with a report called “Guidelines for the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and Abuse in Virginia Public Schools.”

The big picture: The Virginia Department of Education has dealt with of 120 cases of sexual misconduct between teachers and minors since 2000, according to The Daily Caller.

The Board’s proposal for reining in potential misconduct would prohibit teachers from sending text messages to students one-on-one and also disallow private communications via noprofessional social networking sites.

If a student sends a friend request to a Virginia public school employee via Facebook, not only would that recipient have to decline or disregard it, but also would have to report it to a direct supervisor. This would have to go in writing on the next business day and include the date, time and nature of the contact.

This is all still in the suggestion stage, as a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Education told The Daily Caller that she couldn’t “begin to speculate on how the board will vote.” If approved, then Virginia schools would be encouraged to adopt the policy.

This sounds like the kind of measure that parents would support in the interest of protecting their children. School officials probably like this too because of the cost of potential lawsuits related to anything resembling “sexual misconduct.” But I suspect students might have mixed reactions to this proposal, and free speech poponents might actively dislike the idea.

What’s your opinion on whether school employees should be able to communicate with students one-on-one via social networks and text messages? Do employers have the right to dictate how staff use Facebook even during off hours?