That's like saying "schools embrace porn" because they use anatomically correct models in science class.
If I were Elgg I wouldn't be happy with the comparison. Not that I really think myspace is evil but to associate the name of a product you hope to use in education with myspace is not a good idea. It will just lead to problems that are often difficult to solve with people who have opinions based entirely on Oprah and A Current Affair.
I'm all for kids being safe, but if we keep the strangle-hold on them for their behavior, instead of asking them to begin taking some responsibility for creating their own critical thinking skills, when are they EVER going to learn to make decisions on their own?
I really don't see why educators need or want to create or compete with "open" networks. Or use very "heavy" social networking platforms ......
Keep it simple. Create a closed network for your school.
Moderate it!!!! A social network is still something that should be monitored, updated, used, led/guided by a teacher. Discuss with students the need to act responsibly and with common sense on the network ....the internet is like the atrium of the local mall. (in fact, MUCH safer) Act/be the same there as anywhere else.
Ning offers great flexibility and you can do / add almost everything you want. Including embedding additional networks into the main network. You just need a modicum of tech savvyness.... There are loads of free chat/conferencing/educational games/quizzes/gadgets that are safe and can make the network a great learning experience for your students.
That the American educational system views social networks as "predatory" says more about the basic "fear" mentality driving American society than any valid reality. IMO. Dewey would love social networks for students and America should too!