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Should teachers be allowed to befriend students on Facebook?


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In less than two months, two different substitute teachers working in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District have been arrested for committing lewd acts with students.

The latest incident took place at Arlie F. Hutchinson Middle School and involved a 13-year-old female student and 22-year-old substitute teacher Taylor Welch, who was arrested at his home on Tuesday. According to authorities, Welch and the girl became Facebook friends in December and exchanged sexually graphic photos over the Internet and through their cell phones. Welch, who has only been a substitute teacher since September, is also accused of having inappropriate personal contact in the classroom with the victim.

Investigators became aware of the situation after the victim showed some of the inappropriate photos to a friend, who then notified adults. The incident has fueled the debate on whether teachers and students should be friends on Facebook or communicate through social media at all. Some teachers say social media can be a crucial educational tool because of its popularity among students as a means of communication.

At least 40 school districts nationwide have approved social media policies for teachers.


How appropriate is it for teachers to communicate with students through social media? Are teachers more likely to act inappropriately if they are connected with students through social media sites like Facebook? How, and under what circumstances, should teachers be allowed to use social media to connect with their students?


Karen North, clinical psychologist; director, online communities program, USC’s Annenberg school of Communications and Journalism

Tom Hutton, attorney, Patterson Buchanan, a Pacific Northwest law firm representing school districts and public entities; former legal counsel, National School Boards Association

Karen Sternheimer, associate sociology professor, USC, specializing in youth and media; author, "Connecting Popular Culture and Social Problems: Why the Media is not the Answer"