What the Virginia State BOE and the TSA Have In Common

I’ve been following this story for a while: the Virginia State Board of Education has drafted a Draconian social media policy for teachers and school board members.  I’ve been following this story because my school district is in the nascent stages of establishing a fair and usable social media policy.  But we could just as easily be subject to a policy similar to what Virginia teachers might soon have to endure.

I can’t help but think Virginia’s assumption that social media platforms encourage inappropriate interactions between teachers and students isn’t much different from how the TSA has approached air travel in the past 10 years.  As soon as someone finds a new way to create a threat on an airplane, TSA bans whatever substances or mediums were used in that threat.  Now pat-downs and full-body scans are, I suppose from the TSA’s perspective, the only means to prevent a maniac from doing something irrational.  The subtext of most of these security measures is two-fold: first, when we choose to fly, we surrender civil liberties, and second, when we choose to fly, we are not to be trusted.

And so it follows, for the Virginia State Board of Education, that a social media policy requiring teachers to only use mediums and platforms strictly monitored by the school district is the only way to keep their students safe.  The subtext of this policy is two fold: first, when teachers choose to teach in Virginia, they surrender civil liberties, and second, teachers are not to be trusted. 

I’m not advocating for secrecy and subterfuge when communicating with students outside the school day. However, as many people have pointed out, isn’t electronic, archived communication much better than conversations in a classroom after school? Stupid teachers behaved inappropriately with students long before even the Internet was accessible to all and cell phones were ubiquitous.  Virginia’s policy, however well-intentioned, needs a new draft with input from teachers.  As currently written, it is one more slap in the face to teachers who hear over and over again how inept they are at their jobs.  So inept, that now their communications need to be monitored.

I’ve come to expect that kind of behavior from the TSA.  I hope I never have to experience that kind of behavior from my state or local Board of Education.

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