We’ve lost count of the local teacher-student sex scandals in recent years, so it stands to reason that school districts feel a keen responsibility to try to prevent future inappropriate relationships. That determination should be applauded.
But one new line of attack is to crack down on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools, an approach that could be tricky — and ineffective.
In the Ogden district, the thinking is that banning Facebook interactions between students and teachers will throw cold water on some of the potential for the forbidden hookups. Other Utah districts also are contemplating policies, led by the Granite district. Will it work? I have doubts.
First, no matter the number of teacher ethics documents and criminal laws that exist as deterrents, the ratios of improper situations appear to have been increasing for years anyway. Banning Twitter and Facebook won’t dampen teacher and student sex drives.
How will the bans be policed and enforced? Utah school districts can’t even afford pencils right now. Surely they could not shoulder the expense of Internet cops monitoring click tracks. So, practically, active prevention is out. More likely, any evidence of online contact could be used to build an administrative or criminal case against an offending teacher.
Perhaps the larger question is the viability of any institutional effort to corral online interactions. The world has changed dramatically with the explosion of smartphones and online social networking. They are everywhere and becoming ingrained in people’s lives. Local school districts probably are kidding themselves if they believe they can exert any meaningful control.
And in so doing, they might harm legitimate uses of the new technologies. The Weber School District, for example, has an impressive Twitter program. Would it run afoul of a district pogrom against social networking?