Teachers Banned From Using Facebook or Twitter with Students
The school board's new policy does allow for communication using private media, under special or extraordinary circumstances.
That's the ruling from the Pinellas County School Board, whch unanimously passed a policy today that forbids it.
Pinellas County School Board members sought to address the possibility of impropriety as a result of that ease of access.
“I don’t know what information is being transmitted,” said school board attorney Jim Robinson of private communication with students.
While electronic media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter leave a “cyberprint” that have led to countless teacher investigations, it also puts faculty at a new and dangerous risk.
The policy states: “Such communication could cause the appearance of inappropriate association with students.”
Pinellas and Florida are not alone. In Missouri similar legislation is awaiting a signature from Gov. Jay Nixon. School and government officials recognize the need for such cautionary measures, but are also concerned that their legislation does not allow for exceptions.
After the recent tornados in Joplin, many students were located through social media websites when cell phone signals were down.
Pinellas Schools board members made certain to take exceptions into account. The policy also states “staff shall utilize School Board resources in all electronic communications with students regarding school matters. Provided, however, private electronic media, such as a cell phone, may be used when District resources are not available, when such use is in the best interest of all concerned”.
On Facebook Pinellas Park High School has a Fan Page, while the presence of Northeast High and St. Petersburg High School are limited to community pages of standard information.
It is a way for the school to relay information to students in a more structured form using social media.
This language was added to the policy after board member Linda Lerner brought up a potential draw back to a policy that completely eliminated all ability to communicate with students through private devices.
“A teacher brought up the circumstance, a teacher went on a trip with students,” Lerner said. “ The teacher, responsibly, wants to know where [everyone is]. We’re not going to give a phone to every teacher that takes a trip.”
The meeting recessed while School Board attorneys drafted the new language. Once reconvened, the amended policy was adopted unanimously.
The board hopes this policy hinders opportunities for teachers to enter into inappropriate relationships with students and protects the district.
“For staff to communicate on school matters with students by personal electronic means when sufficient School Board means are available exposes the School Board to a possible violation of its legal obligations,” the policy reads.
Though the all seven board members voted to adopt this policy, some expressed a desire to add language that requires teacher communication with both students and parents.
“We hear from the public that some teachers are doing it all the time and other say that it’s rarely, if ever and it’s out of date,” said board member Peggy O’Shea. “It is an important piece today. We really need to step up on that.”