School districts are reviewing guidelines to better define the use of social media in classrooms, as educators grapple with the benefits and drawbacks of online relationships.
This fall, educators dealt with a rash of scandals over the blurred boundaries of students and teachers on services like Twitter and Facebook. At the same time schools saw the many benefits of social interaction in schools, the subject became embroiled in debate, sparking a patchwork of legislative and judicial remedies.
Some schools instituted outright bans of social media contact between students and teachers. Schools in Statesboro, Ga., this fall banned electronic contact between educators and students after they learned Facebook and text messages fostered a relationship between an eighth-grade English teacher and her 14-year-old male pupil.
"It can start out innocent and get more and more in-depth quickly," said Lewis Holloway, superintendent of schools, to the New York Times. "Our students are vulnerable through new means, and we've got to find new ways to protect them."
The teacher in Statesboro was detained on charges of aggravated child molestation and statutory rape, and currently awaits trial.
The state of Missouri investigated the matter of social media, teachers and students, finding 87 Missouri teachers between 2001 and 2005 lost their licenses because of sexual misconduct. Some of those were fired because they were exchanging explicit online messages with students.