The idea of restraining an educator’s ability to interact with students was the subject of my blog post the other day. And yet, the more I think about it, the more I am befuddled by the incoherent nature of the demand.
Now this is nothing against the state of Missouri because really, it could have been any one of a bunch of different state boards of ed which adopted this tactic. Thing is, the ones that did not are about to benefit from the mistakes that Missouri has made.
What’s the old saying, the second mouse gets the cheese. I think there is a bit of applicability to that going on right here.
First off, what constitutes a social network in 2011? Has that been accurately and clearly defined? If so, I haven’t seen it. And by the end of the school year, 10 months from now in 2012, will that definition still be applicable? It’s an amorphous prohibition being doled out, one which basically says, “You know what we mean” and yet, without clearly spelling out what is meant, I am not sure if I really know.
Can a student follow a teacher on Twitter? And if they do, can I prohibit people following me on Twitter? (I am not sure that’s an option available to me.)
And what’s all this about prohibiting interaction with former students. Is there a statute of limitations on when a former student becomes more than a former student? By that I mean a bunch of teachers have commented as to how former students are now colleagues on their campus. They are kids who grew up to become teachers.
Are these people too now banned from the list of approved people with whom we educators in MO can interact?
And, btw, when a teacher is off duty, is it even legal for school districts to draw parameters around their legal interactions? My former student is now my webmaster. For future site maintenance, should I send him a handwritten letter via snail mail as opposed to hitting him up on FB?
I could go on and on. Like who is going to “police” this policy anyway? Did the state of MO come up with a new source of funding to monitor Facebook, Google+, and so on for every educator in MO or will enforcement be selective, like just for those who randomly get caught by spot checks (conducted by whom, I still know not).
What was probably intended to be a simple request for current K-12 teachers not to friend students on Facebook (a request that has some merit, I’ll grant, even though, as FB evolves, perhaps less so) is now an official entanglement. The state of MO is gonna have to dedicate time, resources, legal counsel, attention, energy and so on to a fight that they really didn’t want.
A strongly worded suggestion stating: WARNING: Teachers, we at the MO Dept of Ed strongly recommend you do NOT friend students in the world of social networks as it can open dangerous doors which may jeopardize your professional career” would have been enough. Stay nebulous. Stay vague. Stay out of the legal mess that comes with the actual phrasing of mandated policy and then handle “issues” on a case by case basis because now, it seems to me, you just siphoned off a whole lot of resources that could have gone to student services which will instead go to things like defending your position, conferencing about the “steps you now must take to deal with the pushback” and other such bureaucratic nightmares born in the world of creating hastily fashioned public policy.
And if I am a parent in MO, I gotta be thinking to myself, “What were you thinking?” Sure, you want to protect kids from inappropriate educator contact but you want to do that in the classrooms, on the sports’ fields, on the street corners and so on, too. Now, you’ve embroiled yourself in a tangled web of forthcoming legal quaqmire.
The second mouse gets the cheese. A lesson for 49 other states.