The case of former H.L. Watkins Middle School teacher Corey Perry, accused of distributing child pornography, is singing a spotlight on another issue in the classroom: the use of social media.
Perry, who shot and killed himself last week in a hotel room in Tennessee after being wanted by the FBI, was friends with many of his students on social media.
Cherie Benjoseph with KidSafe said that is definitely going to far.
“When it comes to social media and teachers, we feel very strongly that they should not be friends with students,” Benjoseph said. “To protect both students and teachers.”
Dr. Kathryn Gundlach with the Palm Beach County Classroom Teacher’s Association agrees.
“We try to tell teachers not to friend students on their site,” Gundlach said.
Perry commented on their pictures, posted pictures with them from their class trip to Boston and was actively engaging with students on social media.
Benjospeh said social media is another venue that can be used to groom a potential victim.
“There is grooming in the real world and there is grooming on social media,” Benjoseph said. “And absolutely, social media is a very easy mode of operation for a person who wants to take advantage.”
Palm Beach County School District officials declined to comment on camera on the issue.
The six-page social media policy document details how to set up how to set up a social media account owned by the school. One page is entirely dedicated to advising teachers how to set up the “about” section on the fan page of Facebook. There is even a reminder for teachers that members of the media will monitor social media, but no mention of whether teachers and students should be friends on social media.
“I don’t think the school district should or could regulate what people should or could do on their own time,” Gundlach said. “Because that starts to get scary, how are they going to police that? Who is going to watch over that? What are they going to do?”
Benjoseph with KidSafe said a policy would be very beneficial.
“A policy helps create a conversation that is not happening in the way it needs to happen right now,” Benjoseph said.
Here are some tips from KidSafe fir parents when it comes to students interacting with teachers:
1) Talk to your child from an early age on about social media and who would appropriate to friend on social media
2) Teachers should not text students directly and not without permission of the parent
3) Transparency is key for safety