Educational Editorial: Social media in schools

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Virginia Department of Education has worked at developing its guidelines on the use of social media. The first effort, while well intended, was neither enforceable nor defensible.

While there are certainly potential pitfalls in the use and abuse of social media like Facebook and Twitter, the reality it that it is one way that young people -- as well as many not so young people -- actually talk today.

The first effort at attempting to control the potential communication between teachers and students that might lead to abusive behavior shot the medium rather than the message or the messenger.

Common sense prevailed and the third rendition of guidelines gives more latitude to local school boards in determining the advice and directions that will be applied to its employees.

The initial suggestion that "hugging" middle and high school students should be prohibited has given way to increased communication with families and transparency with methods that teachers use to talk to students.

Announcing the cancellation of a practice by text messaging is okay where an inappropriate telephone conversation should be prohibited.

The focus of enforcement should always be the message rather than the medium. Teachers and students know when behavior is unacceptable, but it is always the responsibility of the teacher to first protect the student.

Public policy can be messy. In theory it is developed through sound research and analysis; however, it is, in reality, frequently hatched in the face of crisis and emotion.

If a teacher makes a suggestive call, we should not prohibit the use of phones. However, whatever the mode of communication, teachers who are abusive to students should be barred from the classroom -- permanently!

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