Educators know that communicating with students electronically can be dangerous. The proliferation of electronic communication tools—emails, texts, snapchats, etc.—has also been named as a cause for the increased reporting of inappropriate student-teacher relationships.
The legislature addressed this concern by mandating that each school district adopt a local policy regulating electronic communications between employees and students. The new law defines electronic communication very broadly to include emails, text messages, instant messages, and any communications made through the internet, including a social media website or a social networking website.
The law requires that the policy:
- include provisions designed to prevent improper electronic communications between a school employee and a student;
- allow a school employee to elect not to disclose to students the employee’s personal telephone number or email address; and
- include provisions instructing a school employee about the proper method for notifying appropriate local administrators about an incident in which a student engages in improper communications with the school employee.
The last requirement is significant. Educators are often at a loss as to what to do when they receive an unsolicited but inappropriate communication from a student. They tend to either show the communication to their friends for advice or just delete it as quickly as possible. Neither of these is a good idea.
With this new requirement, educators will have guidance. But it is critical that they know what that guidance is. Be sure to seek out, read, and understand your district’s electronic communication policy.
If you are an eligible ATPE member who has a question about communication with students, you can contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department by calling our toll-free number, 1-800-777-2873 (ATPE) between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Or you may use our confidential, electronic submission system.
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