Facebook 'friends' rules set for teachers
TEACHERS SHOULD not befriend their students on Facebook and other social networking sites, according to a new code of conduct agreed by the Teaching Council, the group that regulates the profession.
The new code is the first attempt to set down clear guidelines on use of social media for 70,000 primary and second-level teachers in the State. It comes amid growing concern in school communities about bullying of students and teachers on Facebook and Twitter.
Last month four students were expelled from a Dublin school after posting “vile sexual allegations’’ about their teachers on Facebook. An appeal by the four against their expulsion from Oatlands College, Stillorgan, will be heard later this month.
Recently Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn told the Dáil he found it “difficult to envisage how, in the normal course of events, it would be appropriate for teachers or other school staff to communicate with their pupils through social media websites”.
The new code says teachers must ensure “any communication with their students’’ is appropriate. This includes communication via social networking sites, email and by text.
Under the rules, teachers would be in breach of the code if, for example, they posted inappropriate images on a publicly accessible Facebook page.
Other rules include an effective ban on teachers giving expensive one-on-one grinds to their students. Teachers, it says, must avoid “direct conflict between their professional work and private interests”. An absolute prohibition on the use of drugs or alcohol while in school is also included. Teachers must act with honesty and integrity at all times – particularly in relation to assessment and exams, handling of school-related finances and proper use of school property and facilities, it says.
The code was agreed last week by the 34-member Teaching Council board made up of representatives from the teacher unions, school management bodies, parent groups and others. Teachers who breach the code will be subject to the council’s new disciplinary procedures, likely to be approved by the Dáil next year. Teachers found guilty of breaches could be suspended or, in the most serious cases, struck off the council register.