Local News

Lee County bars teachers from contacting students on social networking sites

Posted July 7, 2009 7:15 p.m. EDT
Updated July 8, 2009 11:07 a.m. EDT

— 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.

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.