School Fires Substitute Teacher For Being Facebook Friends With Students

Carol Thebarge, 79, was Facebook friends with about 250 students at Stevens High School in Claremont when school administrators ordered her to unfriend them or lose her job.

One New Hampshire high school is feeling the heat from the community for firing a widely beloved substitute teacher. Her crime? Befriending students on Facebook.

Carol Thebarge, 79, was Facebook friends with about 250 students at Stevens High School in Claremont when school administrators ordered her to unfriend them or lose her job. She chose the latter. "They gave me an ultimatum--either take them all off or you are terminated," Thebarge told CBS Boston. "And I decided that I would not comply and so I was terminated."

The school says it has strict anti-Facebook measures in place to deter teachers from friending students. "Facebook is a wonderful communication tool among friends," said superintendent Middleton McGoodwin. "But teachers are not students' friends. She’s a wonderful lady and she's loved by many but that doesn't give you allowance to ignore a protocol designed to protect all." Some students are picketing her dismissal and demanding her return.

The case raises a few questions: Can (and should) Facebook be used to facilitate better relationships between teachers and students? Indeed, the platform is already inundated with young people and could serve as a way to keep tabs on students who might need additional support, and offer them assistance. But is Facebook the most appropriate venue for that?

“There’s a paranoia about the Internet and I think that we’re not realizing how valuable Facebook can be used properly,” Thebarge said.

One thing is for certain: Facebook isn't going away anytime soon, and as its target demographic shifts toward older users, schools may need to reassess teachers' social media rules and regulations.

[Image: Flickr user David Schott]

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3 Comments

  • We as a nation have become paranoid people with officials hiring lawyers, instead of aides, to make sure everything is as restricted as possible for teachers to teach and students to learn. Students need to understand that even your aunt, or uncle or Grandparents should make sure your parents know where you are, and what you are doing, and that teachers, and mentors know better than to ask you for a private ice cream or pizza, or chat, but open, on Facebook? How much this amazing woman must have helped kids who were just reading, afraid to talk.

  • We are a country of paranoia and it has ruined every freedom, and every positive idea in the country, especially where helping others is concerned. ONE fight at our high school, long ago, and no more school dances, school athletics were at paid fields away from the school, ONE incident and now the statement "Teachers are not students friends" NO, they are not, they are teachers, but without contact, you can not BE a teacher. I was lucky enough to teach my major day at a Quaker school with a three students to one adult ratio, often parents came and it was one adult for each two students. WE taught youth protection before there was a Youth Protection Act, yet most teachers do not teach it, though mandatory. I was paid by an outside program to go into several districts to teach Youth Protection Act, more than once I had just READ THE RULES outloud, and a student spoke up, the teacher told them not to wash family laundry in public. I had just told them to go to teachers, principals!