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New York City Teachers Not Allowed To Interact With Students On Twitter

If you’re a teacher in New York City and you’re on Twitter, you may want to change the privacy settings on your Twitter account – or risk being penalized under the public school system’s newly released social media guidelines.

Are you a teacher with student followers or friends on social networking sites? You may want to rethink that policy, regardless of where you live. The new standards from New York City’s Department of Education are creating quite a buzz online and may possibly be coming to a district near you! Best to be prepared ahead of that happening.

What do these guidelines require exactly? ZDNet.com shares the guideline document here if you want to read the entire thing (and you should), but key provisions speak to two points: the maintenance of separate personal and professional accounts and specific rules detailing when it is okay for teachers to be in touch with students online. Key excerpts are included below:

  • The [DOE employee's] professional social media presence should utilize a professional email address and should be completely separate from any personal social media presence maintained by the DOE employee.
  • Professional social media sites that are non-school based should have a reasonable relationship to the mission and function of the DOE office creating the site
  • To the extent possible, based on the social media site being used, DOE supervisors or their designees should be given administrator rights or access to the professional social medi aaccounts established by DOE employees
  • DOE employees will be required to obtain their supervisor‟s approval before setting up aprofessional social media presence
  • Supervisors and their designees are responsible for maintaining a list of all professional social media accounts within their particular school or office
  • On school-based professional social media sites that involve DOE students, DOE employees should use the sites for professional purposes. DOE employees are not to review any personal social media accounts created by their students.
  • Professional DOE social media sites should include language identifying the sites as professional social media DOE sites. For example, the professional sites can identify theDOE school, department or particular grade that is utilizing the site
  • DOE employees should treat professional social media space and communication like a classroom and/or a professional workplace. The same standards expected in DOE professional settings are expected on professional social media sites. If a particular type of behavior is inappropriate in the classroom or a professional workplace, then that behavior is also inappropriate on the professional social media site
  • DOE employees should exercise caution, sound judgment, and common sense when using professional social media sites
  • DOE employees should use privacy settings to control access to their professional social media sites to ensure that professional social media communications only reach the employees‟ intended audience . . . and employees have an individualized responsibility to understand the rules of the social media site being utilized
  • No personally identifiable student information may be posted by DOE employees on professional social media sites, including student photographs, without the consent of the students’ parents
  • Employees using professional social media have no expectation of privacy with regard to their use of such media. The DOE will regularly monitor professional social media sites to protect the school community

As this video from The Wall Street Journal speaks to, the gist of what the new policy seems to require is common sense:

So what does this mean for Twitter? Well, it appears that teachers now be required to have private Twitter accounts as “it is a recommended practice for professional social media sites to be private networks, unless there is a specific educational need for the site to be a public network.”

Having a private Twitter account will ensure that students aren’t following a teacher without permission, of course – but private accounts are fairly counter-intuitive on Twitter. So will there be a place for teachers on Twitter going forward? Can they HAVE a separate personal presence on the microblogging platform or will that put them at risk?

What do you think? Are these guidelines overdue or should teachers be allowed to “friend” or otherwise interact with students on social media sites?

(Student and teacher image from Shutterstock)

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