Carol Thebarge has been a teacher for 35 years, and the 79-year-old Stevens High School substitute has been active on Facebook since her 75th birthday. One of her favourite parts of the network? Keeping up with her students, past and present.
But now WMUR reports she’s being forced out of her job in Claremont, N.H., for refusing to unfriend her students after the school changed its social media policy for teachers.
Thebarge says she has no plans to unfriend anyone, and Friday was her last day at a job she says she loved.
“These kids have taught me as much as I’ve taught them,” Thebarge told WMUR. “Where do we draw the line? My relationship with my students has always been very safe.”
Administrators looked at Thebarge’s Facebook after another teacher at the school, Christopher LeBlanc, was arrested for having an inappropriate relationship with a student, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
The new social media policy doesn’t allow students to be friends with teachers on Facebook.
A student named Taylor Anderson told WMUR if she didn’t have Mrs. Thebarge as a teacher or a friend, she wouldn’t have graduated. Facebook, she says, helped foster that relationship.
“Facebook is a way to communicate (with people you trust) when you’re going through stuff at home,” Anderson said. “And there are tons of kids in Claremont going through stuff at home.”
“We need someone like Mrs. T to talk to,” she added.
“The students have loved my site,” Thebarge wrote in a Facebook post announcing that she was being forced out of her job. “I have loved to share pictures of the cats, my grandchildrens’ achievements, and the wisdom I have gained throughout my journey.”
She adds that she understands the dangers of social networking, but also recognises that “the blanket policy intended to protect the children, also holds the subtle message that ‘all’ teachers cannot be trusted to communicate with their students outside the classroom.”
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