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Teachers and social networking sites: think before you post
Public Space: the Journal of Law and Social Justice (2010)
  • Charles J. Russo, University of Dayton
  • Joan M Squelch, The University of Notre Dame Australia
  • Sally Varnham, University of Technology Sydney
Social networking sites are highly popular and have profoundly changed the way
people, including educators, communicate and interact. For many teachers the use of
Facebook and MySpace is seen as a valuable educational tool and an integral part of
their private social interaction. However, the exponential growth in the use of social
networking sites by students and teachers alike has presented new legal, ethical and
professional challenges for teachers and school administrators. Teachers might argue
that their social networking sites are personal websites but they are ultimately very
public spaces that leave an electronic trail that can have serious, albeit unintended,
consequences for teachers who breach professional codes of conduct and education
laws. Teachers face the risk of censured speech, professional misconduct and possible
dismissal for posting inappropriate information including comments and pictures on
these websites. The purpose of this article is to examine the legal and professional
risks for teachers using social networking sites and it offers suggestions that school
administrators might incorporate in their policies with regard to teachers’ use of social
networking sites. The first part of the article reviews relevant US cases and the second
part focuses on the following legal issues – free speech, privacy and security of
information, professional conduct, and the implications for teachers and school
administrators in the US, Australia and New Zealand. Included in the second part are
some practical recommendations for teachers and their lawyers as they develop
policies addressing the use of social networking websites in the educational
Publication Date
Citation Information
Russo, C., Squelch, J., and Varnham, S. (2010). Teachers and social networking sites: think before you post. Public Space: the Journal of Law and Social Justice, 5,