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Lee County bars teachers from contacting students on social networking sites

Posted July 7, 2009
Updated July 8, 2009

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— Lee County Schools has adopted a policy prohibiting teachers from communicating with students on public social networking sites and through text messages.

Superintendent Jeff Moss said he's heard of too many cases where teachers are accused of becoming sexually involved with students. Ten school employees in central North Carolina have been charged with sexual misconduct with a student since the beginning of 2008.

Facebook generic District wants to control teacher-student contact

Moss said he believes communicating on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace make the student-teacher relationship less defined.

"It's so easy to cross that line. That line gets blurred," he said. "Even if there's never an intention of doing anything wrong, it's just that appearance of this is outside the realm of school."

The school district is building its own networking site for teachers and students to communicate. District staff can monitor the site, and anything inappropriate can lead to disciplinary action. The district has spent more than $6,000 to design and build the site.

"We are saying communicate in a professional manner," Moss said.

In Wake County, employee codes of conduct already prohibit inappropriate contact between students and teachers on networking sites, and school district spokesman Michael Evans said administrators don't feel the need to spell out regulations for teacher communications with students further.

"We want people to use their best judgment. We have very high expectations about conduct between faculty and students," Evans said. "Unless there is (educational value to it), then you shouldn't be contacting students after hours."

Nathan Martin, a recent Lee County High School graduate, said he often got help on his homework from a teacher last year through instant messaging.

"Having that ability to be able to contact or just be able to get in touch with him, that's nice. I liked that," Martin said.

He said he thinks the new system in Lee County may discourage some students from being as open with teachers.

"I don't think anyone does anything bad, but it's just that you feel like you are being watched," he said.

Moss said he feels it's the school district's responsibility to protect students online after hours.

"In a sense, it may be Big Brother-like, but in the public school setting, that's our task," he said.

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  • 1Moms_View Jul 9, 2009

    "It's so easy to cross that line. That line gets blurred," he said. "Even if there's never an intention of doing anything wrong, it's just that appearance of this is outside the realm of school."

    1. PARENTS--It is the job of PARENTS not the school super to monitor behavior of their children online after school hours.

    2. Teachers already have a clause in their contracts that addresses morality and inappropriate behavior. There is no reason to create this micromanaging policy.

    3. Moss will spend much more than the $6000 he claims on "his" system for the schools. He's already cutting teachers, TAs and other staff left and right. Yet, I haven't seen him offer to reduce his salary OR reduce spending. He can find money laying around in the budget to pay for an unneeded project of his, yet can't find money to keep staff. By the time he pays for the software, instillation, and staff to monitor it he will spend enough to keep several staff members on the job.

  • llauria2 Jul 8, 2009

    As a former Lee County teacher I see this as just one more way for the county to tie our hands while spending more. I have had valid reasons for emailing students. For a teacher busy in the classroom it makes perfect sense at times to notify students by emailing versus phone calls. Dr. Moss, being the micro manager he is, is just keeping his thumbs in the pie, and getting himself in the news. Hmmm, seems he has a history of spend, spend, spend.

  • Bendal1 Jul 8, 2009

    I guess Lee County teachers are now banned from helping their students after school, whether it's with a homework assignment or some personal issue that they're too embarassed or afraid to ask someone else. What a shame.

    Also, what of the teachers that have after-school programs they sponsor? Or as others have mentioned, if they are friends with the child and his parents and not just a teacher?

  • JAT Jul 8, 2009

    "I think that anything you do on a computer is better than meeting or calling a student or parent about class concerns"

    And that is what is so wrong with America - too many prefer to avoid contact. Forget social skills. Just type it in and hit send. You don't need to talk. We all know that typed words translate perfectly - the receiver all knows inflection, tone, tense, etc. TALK TO THE DANG PERSON - IT WON'T KILL YOU.

  • JAT Jul 8, 2009

    First of all, if you really cared to find out what someone was doing, just ask them. How hard is that? We don't need Facebook and Twitter and all that other stuff. We don't even need email! Just ask them.

    And why do so many people feel that so many other people give a flippin' rat's you-know-what about what they're doing? I could care less what my friends do on a minute-by-minute basis and I wouldn't go to Twitter or somewhere to find out. I have my own life and what someone does really doesn't matter to me. If it concerns me, or interest me, or involves me, I trust them to let me know personally, as I would do with them.

    Teachers need to TEACH and not worry about what's on their student's webpages/blogs/twitters/etc. They have no reason to contact their students after school lets out each day. If they have a reason, they can contact the parents. It's that easy.

  • school327 Jul 8, 2009

    I agree with blazercrazy. What about children, nephews, children who have been lifelong friends.

    This is an example of the right intention but the wrong policy crafted by folks who don't understand how the technology works. I believe WCPSS has a similar policy. There are some good things about Facebook - it's not just a place for sexual predators - I personally know a great deal about what is happening with the other adults in my life, my children and their friends, and yes, some of my students (I work at a private school). Several of my colleagues have Facebook accounts - some of us friend students, others of us do not. There are some common sense rules.

    Lee County is missing an opportunity. A cheaper way to deal with this issue would be for the school to create their own Facebook page and ask teachers who want to use this forum with students to join. They would then be able to monitor teachers. It's also a chance to find out what is happening in the student community.

  • Redneck Fun Jul 8, 2009

    This is crazy. For all those who say this is good, think about this. A lot of teachers work with students outside of school on things other than school stuff like Church, sports, scouts,etc. A lot of LCS staff use these sites to help them keep track of what there child's friends are doing and saaying. This will end that. By the way this policy states any Lee County Staff member and Volunteers. Now if I volunteer I can not be "friends" with any Lee County student including ones I go to church with. This is stupid, not needed, and does not stop anything. If a teacher wanted to do those bad things, all they will do is create an account using a fake name.

  • panthers254 Jul 8, 2009

    No 2nd amended issue here,not to mention another unenforcable rule

    i didnt realize this was a gun issue. lol

  • panthers254 Jul 8, 2009

    school administrators should first worry about the drop out rate and why half those in high school can barely read. this all sounds good, but it's just a distraction away from real issues, like why the schools pass students along who fail the EOG's and fail every class. facebook is a nice little convenient scapegoat. lol

  • NCTeacher Jul 8, 2009

    1st and foremost- it is the parents responsibility to protect their child outside of school hours. They should know what their child is doing online, whether it is something good or bad.

    2nd- yes, there are plenty of times I talk to my students outside of school. I run in to them at Wal-Mart, the grocery store, the mall, etc... The email me or call me to ask about homework, what time cheerleading practice is, how to solve a math problem- all school related questions. And I am glad that I have the chance to help them, whether I am "on duty" or not. My job doesn't stop when the final bell rings and neither does my responsibility to my students.

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