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Pro: Facebook law would protect students

By Camille Doty
Oct. 2, 2011 at 5:02 a.m.


Children need protection from people who push the boundaries on social media, a parents says.

"Sometimes you have to tell people what to do," said

Christopher Paz, a Victoria father of two. Paz said he would support a law prohibiting teachers from friending students through Facebook and other social networks.

He added it should be common sense for students and teachers not to have inappropriate online communication.

Paz said he will be vigilant to protect his children when they do reach school age.

Missouri State Sen. Jane Cunningham, a Missouri law maker who sponsored the Facebook law, said legislation would bring children one step closer to having protection from sexual predators in school.

"After five years of fighting, I'm proud to see this legislation finally sent to the governor's desk," said Cunningham in a news release.

The bill is named after a teacher who was charged with sexually assaulting a student. The teacher was employed by several school districts and won a Teacher of the Year award before retiring.

The Republican senator also said the bill would make it possible for school officials to be aware of sexual misconduct exhibited by potential hires and their employees when making staffing decisions.

Twyla Thomas, an elementary school principal in the Refugio School District, said her district prohibits employees from communicating with a student on personal social networking sites.

She said there should be laws providing guidelines and restrictions on student/teacher relationships in order to eliminate inappropriate conduct.

"It is acceptable only when the teacher has set up a professional educational page that is used as a tool to improve student achievement," she said.

Thomas said her school has online programs for students where the teachers are able to monitor and view their work.

The school's 394 students and 27 certified teachers are not allowed to communicate directly between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Diane Boyett, Victoria school district director of communications, said the general rule with social media is, "Don't do it, unless it's related to an instructional capacity."

Boyett said the school board approved a social networking clause on Sept. 7, 2010.

The school district's Employee Handbook, states:

"The educator shall refrain from inappropriate communication with a student or minor, including, but not limited to, electronic communication such as cell phone, text messaging, email, instant-messaging, blogging, or other social network communication."

Boyett said, "The rule provides another layer of protection for students."

She added the mandate applies to current or former students as long as they are enrolled in the school district.

If an instructor has inappropriate conduct, the district sends the report to the State Board for Educator Certification.

Suzanne Marchman, with the Texas Education Agency, said certain sanctions are made available to the public. The various levels range from dismissal to formal reprimand to suspension of certification to loss of certification.

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