By Anne Collier
“Teachers must be cautious in utilizing social media” was the headline in the Courier Post in New Jersey. What a bizarre takeaway that is from this tragic occurrence: “Last month, criminal charges were filed against Charles Reilly, a veteran teacher (and since-resigned town councilman) in Pine Hill [N.J.]. Reilly is accused of having inappropriate sexual conversations with male middle school students. Many of the conversations between Reilly and the boys took place electronically, through Facebook, according to the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office,” the Courier Post reported. I guess I can see why a teachers’ union would caution members about social networking with students, but in this case thank goodness those conversations occurred in Facebook and not in private phone conversations! How much longer would it have taken for the reprehensible behavior of “veteran teacher” Mr. Reilly to be found out? Why is the union focusing on the communications tool as the problem? Why aren’t the Courier Post’s reporter and editors saying anything about how thankful that community can be that a teacher’s criminal activity was exposed in a social network site? But the other amazing thing about this article is that the union and district officials mentioned in it seem to believe that social media make good people more inclined to damage not only their jobs and reputations but children! This assumption needs to be challenged, if only to help people see that the exposure social media afford has potential positive consequences as well as negative ones – very positive consequences, including protecting children.