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.