There are three main concerns when using your personal device, such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, at school:
- Using it inappropriately while at work.
- Students’ viewing inappropriate material.
- Sharing personal information when unintentionally syncing your device to the district’s network.
The first two dangers can be avoided by following district policy, using good judgment, and safeguarding your device. Avoiding the third can be more complicated as it requires a working knowledge of your device’s settings.
Most district policies will cover when it is allowable to use your phone. Avoid potential negative employment action by familiarizing yourself with these policies. Also, recognize that connecting to the district’s network via Wi-Fi constitutes using district resources even if you connect on a personal device. You should never use the district’s network to access inappropriate materials—even if you are viewing them on your personal device.
It’s also a good idea to keep close tabs on your phone while at work and protect it with a password. You would not want a student “finding” your phone and discovering an inappropriate text or picture of you out with friends.
Lastly, take steps to avoid syncing your phone with the district’s network. If your settings are not properly set, your phone might attempt to do this without your knowledge. This could result in all data on your phone, including texts, emails, pictures, and websites you’ve visited, being transferred to the district. You might not necessarily have anything to hide, but why risk turning over personal information to your employer?
Legal duty to keep work-related communications on your personal device
As smartphones and texting have become more common, it has become far more common for teachers, administrators and others to communicate with one another electronically. The Texas Government Code (the Public Information Act) requires that all public school employees keep (not delete) any work-related electronic communications on their personal device unless a copy of the communication is also kept by the district. This requirement lasts for as long as the district would keep the communication under its local archive policy. The educator is legally required to keep the information for this period even if they leave the district. Deleting work-related communications in violation of the law’s requirements can lead to both civil and criminal penalties.