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Union urges teachers to use common sense regarding social media

Union urges teachers to use common sense regarding social media

It’s happened again.

Another teacher from our area, accused of sexual activity with a student.

This makes two teachers in recent weeks from Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties.

Social media can be a way to share information, it can also be a way for teachers to entice and prey on students, and we found there are few policies in place to prevent it.

“It gives them a way to access children,” said Nellie Prichard, a parent from West Palm Beach.

Prichard is mother of a second grader.

She’s surprised to learn the Palm Beach County and St. Lucie County School districts have no policy that prohibits teachers from contacting students on their personal social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter.

There’s also no district policy that forbids teachers from sending students text messages.

“Otherwise anything goes,” Prichard said.

Authorities say two teachers in our area---Corey Perry at HL Watkins Middle School in Palm Beach Gardens , and Tiffany Geliga from Port St. Lucie High exchanged text messages or phone calls with students whom they allegedly preyed on sexually.

“To protect my child against the possibility of an adult inappropriately having any type of relationship or conversation with them, yes they should have some policy in place,” Prichard said.

The local teachers union says teachers can get into a lot of trouble interacting with students on social media.

“We as a union do not recommend that our teachers Facebook friend their students, or allow them to Facebook friend them because it can lead to difficulties,” said Dr. Kathryn Gundlach, president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association.

She urges teachers to use common sense.

“Students are not your friends. They are your students and that’s a very important distinction. And so you shouldn’t be sharing your social media life with a child,” Dr. Gundlach said.

The school district does have a policy indicating communications between teachers and students on professional social media sites should not violate the district’s code of ethics.

That means no “inappropriate written, verbal or physical relationship with a student.”

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