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Suicide Attempts Cause Facebook Controversy

Activists call to allow teachers greater Facebook freedom as two students attempt suicide over comments on site.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 3/2/2012, 1:32 PM

High school students (illustrative)
High school students (illustrative)
Flash 90

Two young students attempted suicide this week over bullying, some of which took place on the social networking site Facebook. Now some activists say the tragic case may have been preventable, and are calling on the Education Ministry to change its rules regarding Facebook use.

Rabbi Shai Piron of the Hakol Chinuch movement called Thursday for the Education Ministry to allow teachers to “friend” their students on Facebook. Currently, teachers are forbidden to have any contact with students on social networking sites.

“The ban on teachers and students connecting on Facebook is misguided,” Rabbi Piron argued. “It stems from an attempt to avoid dealing with a new reality, one that requires teachers to be present.”

One of the girls who attempted suicide this week had allegedly told school staff about the online bullying.

“The education system must look at the internet in general, and Facebook in particular, as an important educational issue,” Rabbi Piron said. He called on officials to take Facebook “at least as seriously as international exams.”

Commenters were divided on the issue. While some called for teachers to be more involved in students’ moral education, others argued that monitoring children’s Facebook use should be a job for parents.

Education Ministry officials have released a statement saying teachers did what they could to assist the two students involved in this week’s near-tragedy. The two were given emotional support in school, the bullies were disciplined, and staff alerted police to the girls’ potential suicidal urges, ministry officials said.