Should teachers be friends with their students on Facebook?

Students and teachers: Should they be Facebook friends?

Schools across the nation are starting to develop and release new social media guidelines for teachers. But how are the risks of inappropriate contact balanced with the benefits of social media?

"It's very important to our communication," said Randall High School Band Director David Wright. "Our students are used to Facebook and Twitter. They use it everyday and so if we can communicate with them where they are, it really just kind of helps us."

Wright is part of the growing trend of students and teachers communicating via social media. While he does not friend his students using his personal account, he uses a professional organization page to communicate with his students.

"We use Twitter more for announcements and we use Facebook for a more fun kind of communication," he said.

If Wright wanted to use his personal Facebook account to friend his students, it would be allowed. Canyon Independent School District does not ban its teachers from being friends with their students on Facebook. Instead, the district makes its employees sign a social media policy at the beginning of each school year.

The policy states that communication using social or electronic media should be limited to a professional nature. It also states that no private contact should be made without copying a parent or the school's principal.

Canyon ISD Policy

"The employee is strongly encouraged to limit social/electronic media communications to matters within the scope of the employee's professional responsibilities (e.g., for classroom teachers, matters relating to class work, homework, and tests; for an employee with an extracurricular duty, matters relating to the extracurricular activity.) One-to-one or individual communication through social/electronic media without copying the parent and/or the principal is prohibited."

Wright said he prefers using the professional organization pages on Facebook and Twitter because it's transparent.

"I like it because it's transparent," Wright said. "Everyone can see what's going on."

Ali West, a senior band member at Randall High said using social media to communicate has been pivotal in relaying important messages.

"We see a lot of things in the news about interactions between students and teachers and I think it's important that CISD have some guidelines for these sort of things but I don't think we should completely eliminate Facebook and Twitter interactions with students because it's a really great thing we have going on here," West said.

She estimated nearly 97 percent of the student body is on Facebook or Twitter so using social media to relay messages is convenient.

"Yeah, we don't listen to him in person," West joked.

West said she plans to add Wright as soon as she graduates because it presents a unique networking opportunity.

Amarillo ISD Policy
Amarillo ISD has a similar policy to that of Canyon ISD's:

"The district's policy is that any sort of inappropriate relationship, whether it takes place in a public setting or whether it's behind closed doors, maybe via a computer of cell phone, any inappropriate relationship is strictly prohibited and could result in termination of the employee," Holly Shelton, AISD spokesperson said.

What do you think? Should teachers be friends with their students on Facebook? Let us know in the comment section below.