School boards in New Jersey and throughout the nation have been dealing with a new problem over the past few years that seems to be getting larger as time goes on - social media. The students, however, aren't causing all the controversy. Educators have landed themselves in hot water as well.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter have been serving as an outlet for anyone to share what they want people to hear or see, but where do you draw the line for someone who teaches our youth?


"School boards are now hiring the first generation of teachers who have been raised with social media, from middle and high school all the way through college," said Mike Yaple with the New Jersey School Boards Association. "These young teachers might not be aware of the professional behavior and professional boundaries in the workplace."

However, the young educators should not be singled out on this issue. Earlier this month, it was ruled a Paterson first grade teacher who was on the job since the 1990s can be fired for calling her students "future criminals" on Facebook. At age 49, Union Township High School teacher Viki Knox was suspended with pay for her anti-gay online comments. She has since decided to resign.

"You want to set boundaries so kids aren't seeing their teachers posting offensive material online," Yaple explained. "The other problem occurs when technology and social networking is used to start an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a student."

Many New Jersey schools have policies in place that address, up front, the use of social media by staff members. A model policy from the School Boards Association advises against listing current students as "friends" on networking sites. The policy also suggests all electronic communication go through the district's computer or phone. School boards can adopt the model policy as is or use it as a guideline to craft their own.

Instead of a solid policy, some schools hold annual training programs or let administrators handle any situations that may arise on a case-by-case basis.

Yaple explained, "Unless a teacher's actions cross a legal line, it's really up to each school district to set the rules for acceptable behavior in the workplace."