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Facebook & Texting Caution: Updated Advice from AAE's Director of Legal Services
posted by: Alana | July 15, 2016, 08:44 PM   


There are a number of situations where social media has the potential to play an important role in the classroom - if used appropriately. However, when a teacher uses this kind of communication platform to interact with students, they're also allowing the student to also have control over the content and nature of the communication... and that’s where educators often run into the most difficulty.




Consider these scenarios that actually happened to real teachers:

1. A teacher who also tutored had all of her students at the end of each semester come to her house as a group for dinner. This was done as a reward for their hard work. No alcohol was served, just spaghetti and meatballs. One of the students took pictures on his phone and posted them on his Facebook wall with a message “having dinner at Ms. Smith’s house.” Other students saw it, word spread, and the teacher was suspended for inappropriate interaction with students.

2. One teacher used Facebook to communicate with students about assignments and share other various classroom news. To do so, the teacher “friended” all of their students. One female student posted a picture on his wall of her naked with a suggestive comment. The teacher was fired.

3. Another teacher didn't feel comfortable “friending” all students and in an attempt to minimize information about their personal life being out in the open only accepted 'friend' requests from select students. When word got out that some students were deemed inappropriate to friend, those excluded complained of discrimination and disparate treatment under Title IX.



To minimize the risk of using Facebook as a means of student communication, AAE's Director of Legal Services urges educators to consider creating a group instead of using private conversations to converse with students. This solves many Facebook concerns with respect to the teacher communications. It's also advised that teachers include a disclaimer on the page that makes clear that communications are to be related to classroom instruction and support only and students who abuse the policy will not be allowed to continue using Facebook as a means of communication.



Facebook isn't the only way technology can get even the best teachers in trouble. Texting also poses a risk for educators who communicate with students using this platform. Consider this scenario...

An orchestra teacher in Nevada (young, just out of Julliard, and by all accounts an excellent teacher), exchanged texts with his high school students regarding assignments, classwork, and other various school related topics. One student began texting him inappropriately. He texted back and told her the messages were inappropriate. She continued to text and he continued to rebuff. She complained to administration that he had been texting her inappropriately. Even by subpoena, the actual content of the texts is unattainable so all the teacher was able to show through his phone bills was that he and the student were texting back and forth. To protect themselves, the administration sided with the student leaving him to fight this accusation on his own. Though he was later found not-guilty, the subsequent consequences of this incident were severe. Despite his lifelong aspirations and a clearly bright future ahead of him, the teacher was forced to resign from his teaching career.



According to AAE's attorney, texting with students is just too much of a liability and recommends teachers just not do it! If you think you must text, our attorney advises that you get parental permission and include the parent or another adult on your texts with students.


Don't step foot into the classroom without being protected. If you or someone you know are professional educators who have not yet secured personal liability insurance beyond your school's policy, get the piece of mind you need from AAE for just $16.50 per month or $198 per year! Visit to learn why AAE liability insurance and other great member benefits are right for you.


What safety measures do you take when communicating with students?

Tell us in the comments below!


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