Questions raised about social media contact between teachers and students

December 12, 2012 12:07:43 AM PST
Alleged sexual relationship between a student and teacher raise questions about the increasing interaction between teachers and students --- particularly in the digital age. Experts say school districts are now encouraging teachers to be more accessible both inside and outside the classroom, and that interaction is causing some concern among educators.

Former Clovis East High School Science Teacher Lindsey Trimble, 28, was active on Facebook, she has a Twitter account, and like many others in the digital age -- was highly accessible.

Fresno State Professor Dr. Jacques Benninga teaches a course in educational psychology. His role is to instill ethical boundaries into future teachers, and prevent sexual relationships like the one Trimble is now accused of having with a 17 year old student.

"The people who do this kind of behavior violate the common trust, they violate the social contract, they violate professional standards," said Dr. Benninga.

Experts say teachers are now encouraged to be more accessible than in the past. "Now many of them give their phone numbers to the students there is much more contact encouraged between the school district and the teachers and their students," said Dr. Benninga.

With that increased interaction they say comes a greater responsibility. Former teachers say social media is a necessary tool to help instructors stay relevant. "If a teacher, especially middle school or high school, is going to relate to the students she's teaching, he or she needs to be familiar with the social media because the kids are," said Sandra Bright, retired teacher.

Bright spent more than three decades in the profession. She is encouraging current teachers to use the digital age to their advantage but to maintain their professional persona.

"Your private life becomes not as private. But on the other hand, as a teacher and a professional, you need to put a filter on that when you interact with the social media," said Bright.

Every Fresno State student who aims to become a teacher is required to take Educational Psychology. The class even instructs future teachers on what clothing is appropriate to wear in a school setting.


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