Dec 182011

Lewis Holloway, the superintendent of schools in Statesboro, Ga., imposed a new policy this fall prohibiting private electronic communications after learning that Facebook and text messages had helped fuel a relationship between an eighth grade English teacher and her 14-year-old male pupil. The teacher was arrested this summer on charges of aggravated child molestation and statutory rape, and remains in jail awaiting trial.

“It can start out innocent and get more and more in depth quickly,” said Mr. Holloway, a school administrator for 38 years. “Our students are vulnerable through new means, and we’ve got to find new ways to protect them.”

Social media doesn’t “make it easier” for teachers to form “boundary-crossing relationships with students.” It makes COMMUNICATION easier, period. If teachers have poor judgment about communicating appropriately, that’s a different story.

Likewise, “Facebook and text messages” did NOT “help fuel a relationship between an eighth grade English teacher and her 14-year-old male pupil.” Poor judgment and inappropriate conduct did that!

Let’s be clear about what’s to blame and who is responsible. The communication medium is not the enemy. There were teachers doing inappropriate things long before the Internet. Did we ban letter-writing? And if we had done that, would that have solved the REAL problem — that of obvious teacher misconduct and violations of trust, relationships, safety?

Teachers who communicate and behave inappropriately should be treated with appropriate consequences — sometimes yes, those are criminal. What are those “appropriate consequences,” you ask? Well, I’d say it depends on the professional code of conduct which governs the teaching body in the state/province/country where one is a teacher.

And how many states/provinces/countries have those, hm?

(Not too many, last I checked.)

We have them for doctors, lawyers, even engineers. But not teachers. Let’s raise the standards and values of the teaching profession, and see what happens. To everything. But banning electronic communication is the wrong place to start that journey.