Teenage years are often awkward for a variety of reasons, both for teens themselves and the adults they interact with. It can be particularly difficult for teachers and other school staff when it comes to dealing with adolescent students, as they are in a transition stage between being children and being adults.
It can be tempting to treat teens, particularly those who are mature for their age, as adults. Indeed, many teenagers would prefer to be treated this way. But School District 20 is right to articulate clearly in a new policy that staff are to maintain professional relationships with students and refrain from becoming their peers.
We think the policy goes a touch too far, however, when it comes to the advice on how school staff should communicate with students electronically. As the Castlegar News reports today, things like sending text messages and being “friends” with students on Facebook are classified as “unacceptable behaviour” under the new guidelines for district staff.We recognize the intent behind this policy, as there is plenty of room for inappropriate behaviour through these means of communication.
One needn’t look far through the headlines to find stories of people who have landed themselves in hot water through questionable texts or Facebook postings.
But just because things can go wrong doesn’t mean these lines of communication — which are so standard for young people today — should be cut off entirely. There is plenty of room for school staff to do good work by building professional relationships with students through the use of cellphones and social media.
We’d hate to see this policy result in a teacher or counsellor getting in trouble for simply trying to connect with students in a method that is familiar to them — or worse, failing to make the effort in the first place.