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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – The first day of school on Monday saw children all across the state returning to the classroom to new teachers and new classmates.
The news that a 39-year-old teacher in Thorsby was arrested and charged with rape and sodomy with a student raises an important question: what kind of communication should teachers have with students?
In an online world where Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagram pictures and text messages are part of everyday life for many students, it all seems harmless above the surface. However, the argument could be made that there are some cases where it isn’t appropriate, such as between teachers and students.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it unless, you know, just depending on what they’re talking about of course,” Yashica Holloway said. “I wouldn’t want a teacher on here talking about anything inappropriate with my child.”
The age requirement to join Facebook is only 13 years old, which means students as young as middle school are allowed access to the social network.
Leslie Brent’s daughter, Taylor, is a freshman at Spain Park High School in Hoover. Taylor’s cheerleading coach required her and the rest of the squad to be her friends on Facebook. Her mother is fine with that requirement.
“They’re held to a higher level, and the cheer coaches are just monitoring and making sure there are just no appropriate pictures or thing that they’re liking on Facebook,” Leslie Brent said.
Although Taylor and her mother are okay with the notion of being friends with Taylor’s cheer coach, both say they might have second thoughts about approving a friend request from a regular teacher.
“That’s now how it’s supposed to work,” Taylor Brent commented. “Like, they’re not my friend. So, they shouldn’t be friends with me on Facebook.”
The Brents were not in the majority, though. Most parents CBS42 talked to have mixed feelings as to whether or not teachers should have online access to their students.
“Teachers should have boundaries, as well as kids,” said Holloway, “so if you know what your boundaries are, it’s not an issue.”
“As long as it’s concerning their assignments, I have no problem,” Murray Hayden added.
Still, some parents would rather teachers not have access to their children on social networks.
“What would raise a red flag for you as a parent? Being friends on Facebook.”
The Birmingham, Hoover and Homewood school systems all have policies for internet and electronic device usage.
Hoover City Schools are believed to be the only ones with a social media policy. They specifically discourage teachers from accepting friend requests from current students.
Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42