As teachers increasingly connect with their students online, school districts are working to define appropriate ways for teachers and students to communicate outside the classroom, reports the Chicago Tribune. It’s a murky area with a variety of questions: Should teachers use a Facebook fan page to contact students? Should they allow students to “friend” them on their personal profiles or post pictures on their walls? Should they notify parents that they are using social networking sites to communicate? The Illinois school code requires that districts develop polices for social networking and teach students how to safely use chat rooms, eMail, and instant messaging. Some districts have responded with vague policies open for interpretation, while others have banned all use of social media between teachers and students. In Community High School District 128 in Libertyville, the school board approved a set of “expectations” for social networking between teachers, coaches, and students, which are now incorporated into employee policies. It deems district-provided eMail and school-based web sites acceptable forms of communication. However, it warns that text messages are highly personal, can quickly get “off topic,” and be easily misinterpreted by a parent. “What you want to avoid is a parent seeing a coach’s cell-phone number on their daughter’s phone and being surprised,” said Mick Torres, the district’s technology director…

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Maya Prabhu