Preventing inappropriate relationships

Albany County School District No. 1 Board of Education debated Wednesday whether to craft policy, preventing teachers from being social media friends with their students.

ACSD No. 1 Board of Education Trustee Tammy Schroeder said the district should include a section in its employee conduct policy prohibiting teachers from friending their students on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Including a restriction in the conduct policy is designed to prevent potential inappropriate relationships from forming on social media between teachers and students.

“There is nothing in the (the policy saying) our employees cannot be friends with their students,” Schroeder said. “If we don’t have a policy that says ‘Don’t be friends with your friends on Facebook’ and then if they become Facebook friends, they (could) engage in a private relationship with a student and we don’t have a policy that says teachers can’t do that.”

Board of Education Trustee Karen Bienz said the district’s employee handbook did not include a section about teachers connecting with their students on social media because of Laramie’s size. She said because Laramie is a close-knit community where it is common for people to be related and be friends with people and they don’t need to include a section about social media in the policy.

“This is a small town — your teacher might be your aunt or your best friend’s mother,” Bienz said.

“There is a directive in here about healthy boundaries, remind students of the limits of your relationship as an adult. Affirm the helping nature of your relationships with students … as an adult you are a role model, not their friend.”

Schroeder said the district should include a social media section into the employee conduct policy to prevent potential inappropriate relationships that come from the use of social media.

“What we do have to have is something that covers us if we have a teacher and a student who are engaged in an inappropriate relationship via some social media,” she said.

“(We should create a policy that says) you can’t be a private friend with a student on a social media network if you are an employee of our school district.”

To decide if the school district should work a social media statement in the policy Board of Education Vice Chairman Dona Coffey suggested speaking with lawyers about it and if they recommend adding it in before the policy is adopted.

“I think the best thing to do is talk to some other lawyers and find out ways we can do (it),” she said. “We try not to list those specific kinds of things because everybody could give us six other reasons why they need to have that conversation.”

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