News / Vancouver

Vancouver School Board weighs in on student-teacher Facebook friendships

Students who want to be Facebook friends with their teachers might face a lot of rejection come fall.

In a draft of the Vancouver School Board’s first social media policy, the board outlaws the practice of teachers and students forging relationships on social media for any non-educational purpose.

The board has long had an “acceptable use of technology” policy that applies to both students and teachers, but the onslaught of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr makes it important to set new boundaries, Vancouver Board of Education Vice-Chair Mike Lombardi said.

“We know social media is not going away and it’s a powerful tool for learning, but we need to make sure it’s used responsibly,” he said. “I don’t see any need to communicate with a student on Facebook about anything other than educational material.”

Acceptable online interactions could be a science class starting a page about an experiment or a teacher posting information about a field trip, Lombardi said, but simply being Facebook friends would cross a line.

The policy also asks teachers to ask friends not to tag them in inappropriate posts and not to exchange personal phone numbers, email addresses or photographs with students.

However, Lombardi does advocate for a larger use of social media in classrooms, such as learning how to avoid cyberbullying or use social networks responsibly.

The social media policy, which was developed after six months of collecting advice from other districts and the Ministry of Education, will be subject to debate starting Tuesday before a final version is passed in late June.

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