Targeting teacher-student communications

Teachers who telephone, e-mail or text their students can get in trouble in Louisiana and in some districts, reports Education Week. In an attempt to prevent sexual exploitation, districts are making it harder for school employees to contact students one on one.

By Nov. 15, Louisiana teachers are supposed to document every electronic interaction with a student using “a nonschool-issued device, such as a personal cellphone or e-mail account.”  Teachers also are supposed to report if they’re contacted by a student.

Louisiana Rep. Walker Hines, a Democrat, voted against the bill in his state. “I did not believe that this legislation would deter any teacher from having a sexual relationship with a student,” he said. “In fact, I believe this legislation could have a major chilling effect on teachers’ becoming mentors for students.”

. . . The documentation consists of filling out an electronic form that explains the reason behind the interaction, which is then sent to the school administration.

Nationwide, a number of districts are limiting electronic communications, Education Week reports. In some, teachers are required or urged to use district-provided e-mail addresses rather than personal accounts. In others, school staffers may not communicate with students on social-networking Web sites such as Facebook. The more flexible districts simply tell teachers to use professional ethics without specifying what’s OK or not OK.

The Lamar County school district in Mississippi prohibits teachers from posting documents or photos online that “might result in a disruption of classroom activity.” Presumably that means no bikini shots.

Meanwhile, two Indiana high school girls are suing because they were suspended from sports for posting sexually suggestive photos of a sleepover online on a  passw0rd-protected site. (Someone got access and circulated the photos.) The girls were forced to go to counseling sessions and apologize to the schools’ coaches.

It will be hard enough to regulate the cyber-behavior of school employees without trying to monitor the virtual antics of sophomores.

About Joanne


  1. I list my home phone number on my board for my classes so that students can call me in the evenings if they need assistance or have any questions about an assignment. I know that many of my colleagues do the same.

    This type of regulation will make it more likely that teachers will stop offering these services, as it will become yet another form to fill out. Teachers with legitimate purposes for student contact will be incentiviced to stop that conduct, and many teachers will be unnecessary reprimanded for failing to document all calls. Those individuals who are seeking illicit contact with students will continue to do so.

  2. I give my graduating seniors my Yahoo email address, but that’s all. I wouldn’t consider giving current students that email, with the exception perhaps of the president of one of my sponsored clubs’ needing to get in touch with me about an upcoming event (but that’s never happened). My school email is readily available, but I don’t check that on my “home time”.

    I don’t fault those who *do* have more personal contact with students, it’s just not somewhere I want to go. I certainly don’t see a log or a ban as protecting any students from predators.

  3. Computer technology has made it possible for businesses to communicate with employees, suppliers and customers around the clock. That’s one reason for the rise in “efficiency” associated with the use of technology. I’m not questioning teachers’ decisions not to be available around the clock. I personally feel that modern companies go too far. However, if schools will outright forbid employees’ use of the most effective aspects of technology, because experience has shown it to be fraught with difficulties, why are public school systems rushing to throw more money into technology? If you won’t use what you have already, why buy more?

  4. Margo/Mom says:

    As a parent, I don’t think that there is much to be gained by banning communications media. That said, there are many, many ways to cut down on abuse and the possible use of such tools for illegal acts. A school intranet, or controlled social networking software (facebook like with access limited to students and school personnel), provision of district cell phones to teachers, teacher web-pages with blog, listserv or bulletin board capabilities. The key is to shine as much light as possible on the communication so that it becomes no different from any other teacher/student encounter within the school hallway during school hours. This also can serve as a means of modelling appropriate online communications to students who are already way ahead of us in meeting people we might rather that they not be conversing with.

  5. Margo/Mom is 100% correct. There are so many ways to manage communication between students and teachers that are above board and easily tracked. I check my work email religiously at night and over the weekend. I communicate relatively frequently with students and parents (and colleagues) with it. It is simple and fast.


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