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Should teachers, kids be digital ‘friends’?

With online social networks and similar tools rocketing in popularity, some teachers have started using these tools to build rapport, update students on classroom activities, and keep an ear to the ground with the youths they teach. But potential pitfalls remain, reports the Arizona Daily Star — including the appearance of impropriety and other ethical issues. And sometimes it can lead to criminal cases. Police last weekend arrested a 36-year-old eighth-grade teacher at Utterback Magnet Middle School, alleging he had a sexual encounter with a student on school property. The mother of a 15-year-old student had told police she found suspicious chats between the teacher and her daughter on the girl’s Facebook page. And on May 22, a 37-year-old math teacher at a suburban Philadelphia high school was accused of having sex with one of her students and sending sexually explicit internet and phone messages to another. Police say the teacher used Facebook to contact the students. The sexual relationship reportedly began with one student after she sent him a "friend" request to be part of her online social network. School officials say it’s hard to know where to draw the line–although there has been some movement to do just that. The Missouri Legislature is debating a proposal to ban elementary-school teachers from having social-networking friend-ships with their students. And the Lamar County School District board in Mississippi recently passed a policy that bans "fraternization via the internet" between staff members and students. It also prohibits text messages to students except for educational purposes…

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