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NYC public school teachers get robust new social media guidelines

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The Facebook website is shown on a laptop. The growing use of social media has led school districts across the country to examine their policies for teacher-student contact online.

New York City put out its first social media guidelines for public school teachers this week urging teachers to avoid communicating with students on sites such as Twitter and Facebook unless by a specifically designated professional account.

The robust nine-page new policy issued by the Education Department Monday is not an outright ban on social media contact with students, but instead instructs teachers to treat their professional social media space "like a classroom and/or professional workplace," according to The Wall Street Journal.

The release of social media guidelines for the nation's largest public school system comes after a spate of incidents in which the public school system's teachers and other school employees have been accused of misconduct with students. It also follows on the heels of the Los Angeles Unified School District's release of its first such guidelines in February after nine months of discussion.

Much of the New York City policy is similar to L.A.'s. Both urge a separation of personal and professional accounts and tell teachers they should not have any expectation of privacy online. But the New York City policy takes it a bit further.

Teachers are told they should inform their supervisors of their professional account and get their approval before it is created; the supervisor is to be given administrator rights and will monitor the site on a regular basis. The supervisor can also remove or disable the account if it doesn't follow the new policy guidelines.

Parents will be informed each school year of these sanctioned professional accounts and must provide consent for their child's participation, the policy states. Comments on the professional sites should be turned off, or otherwise monitored on a daily basis.

“If a particular type of behavior is inappropriate in the classroom or a professional workplace, then that behavior is also inappropriate on the professional social media site,” the policy states.

Even on their personal site, the guidelines say that teachers should not "tag" other public school employees without their consent beforehand. The policy tells teachers to "exercise caution and common sense" when using their own personal social media accounts.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).

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