On Monday, the New York City Department of Education issued its first set of guidelines on the use of social media by city teachers, the Wall Street Journal reports. While the guidelines do not forbid teachers from using Facebook and Twitter, they do state in no uncertain terms that public school teachers are not to contact students through personal social media pages. No “friending,” no “at”-ing, no poking, no direct messaging, and contact initiated by students is to be rejected.

“If a particular type of behavior is inappropriate in the classroom or a professional workplace, then that behavior is also inappropriate on the professional social media site,” the guidelines say. They come after a recent increase in reports of inappropriate behavior between students and teachers: five tenured teachers are among seven education employees who have been arrested in the recent months. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter may have contributed to this spike. For example, the number of instances in which Facebook was mentioned in a complaint made to the Department of Education’s special commissioner of investigation jumped from two in 2008 to 59 in 2010 –– and in the first 11 months of 2011, there were 69. The guidelines are said to have been in the works for six months, says schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, which is why an all-out ban of social media, preferred by the Department of Education, was not adopted.

As of now, there are not actually any consequences for disobeying the guidelines. Schools spokesman is reported to have told reporters “These are strong recommendations.” In May, the city will begin conducting training sessions for schools and teachers which will teach not only the guidelines set down yesterday, but examples of how social media can be a positive force in classrooms. Significantly, the guidelines warn that school employees using personal social media “have no expectation of privacy,” as their supervisors are instructed to regularly surveil all personal accounts with links to the school. (Photo: West McGowan/Flickr)