Seven months after restricting teachers’ Facebook and Twitter interaction with students in an attempt to prevent sexual misconduct, Arlington Public Schools is looking to set more guidelines for social media use among school employees.
Under a new policy, Arlington teachers would have to register social media accounts geared toward instruction — such as a class Facebook page or a Twitter account used for homework reminders — with their principals, who would be allowed to request the account’s password.
Teachers also would need to publicize the account to parents, typically through the class syllabus, and explain how the social media account would pertain to instruction. The proposed policy, Acceptable Use of Social Media, was received well by the School Board last week and likely will be approved on June 19.
“When I was growing up, they always warned us about the creepy guy on the corner,” said Mary Waters, whose son is a junior at Yorktown High School and who supports the policy. “I’m not sure that’s the case anymore, but when you open up a Facebook page, that’s where you find someone who could be a threat.”
In October, the School Board passed the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and Abuse policy, which forbid one-on-one electronic communication between school employees and individual students.
The Washington area has had its share of inappropriate teacher-student relations fueled by electronics. Last month, a Montgomery County high school teacher was charged with soliciting students for sex using his cellphone. On Tuesday, a Prince William County substitute teacher was arrested for exchanging inappropriate messages with a student.
Linda Erdos, Arlington’s assistant superintendent of school and community relations, said teachers have been asking for guidelines on how to use social media to reach entire classes. After the sexual misconduct policy was passed, they were uncomfortable trying to explore those waters without regulations.
“There have been several [teachers] who say they’d like to use social media but have not felt comfortable,” Erdos said.
The Virginia Department of Education issued guidelines in March for how districts should tackle social media use between employees and students.
Officials said that of the more than 100 teaching licenses revoked or canceled in the past decade, most cases involved inappropriate electronic communication.
Neighboring Fairfax County Public Schools does not have a policy on social media, but spokesman John Torre said he believes one is in the works. A spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools said his district is also working “on some guidance for using social media as a communication and instructional tool.”
DC Public Schools does not have such a policy.