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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