Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has signed a bill that forces school districts to report any allegations of sexual abuse to state authorities within 24 hours but also in effect bans teachers and students from being connected via social networks.

This is what the bill says about social networks:

By January 1, 2012, every school district must develop a written policy concerning teacher-student communication and employee-student communications. Each policy must include appropriate oral and nonverbal personal communication, which may be combined with sexual harassment policies, and appropriate use of electronic media as described in the act, including social networking sites. Teachers cannot establish, maintain, or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and the child’s legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian.

Missouri is the first state to truly address the tricky situation of exactly what type of relationships teachers and students should have in an age where social networks and texting rule the day for teens.

While Facebook may be convenient for both teachers and students school systems have many options available to them to foster communication which keeps things on a more professional level as they should be.   Now homework assignments and grades can be accessed online giving students instant access to the information they need.

If teachers want t communicate with students via Facebook then I suggest they do it through a school sponsored fan page.  This would be voluntary to join and all communications would be public protecting both parties.

In general I’m not in favor of using legislation to regulate when and where social networks can be used, but because of past abuses and the potential for future abuses I think schools need to set some ground rules and remind both teachers and students of the respective roles in the schools.  Social networks tend to blur those lines and not always for the better.

 

The Chancellor of D.C. Schools Michelle Rhee, a Korean-American running a predominantly black school system has been shaking up the establishment since  her arrival by firing poor performing principals and closing underpeforming or underenrolled schools.   Now she faces her biggest test with her pay proposal for the teachers.

Under Rhee’s plan teachers would be eligible for salary increases of up to 40% plus bonuses for student performance.  This could conceivably lift salaries to as much as $130,000 per year, a figure normally only seen by administrators in the system.  But this isn’t a free lunch.  In return for the opportunity to earn more money, the teachers would agree to give up their tenure for one year exposing them to the possibility of being fired by the hard charging Rhee.

So the teachers are facing a huge dilemma.  Do they risk their lifetime job security for the chance to increase their income?  The teacher’s union as one might expect is firmly against this proposal because it not only attacks the outdated notion that teachers should in essence have a job for life, but that teacher performance is actually important.

If the teachers aren’t willing to be judged on their performance like most workers are in their jobs then they shouldn’t be teaching.

One would normally think that such ideas or actions might be the brainchild of a conservative reformer but in this case there is nothing further from the truth.  Rhee is a Democrat who has even been praised by Obama during the campaign for her efforts and is now fighting the very same entrenched union bureaucracy that has been a large support base for the Democratic party.

Whether or not Rhee will be successful with her pay proposal remains to be seen.  But in any event she has proven herself to be an educator who actually cares about the children in a broken system and is wlling to go against conventional norms in an effort to provide the children in D.C. with a decent education.