Virginia to ban student-teacher texting? One simple rule of school communications

Virginia to ban student-teacher texting? One simple rule of school communications

Summary: Virginia bans student-teacher texting and Facebook communications to prevent accusations of sexual misconduct. There is one, simple rule however to effective student-teacher communications.

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Virginia may ban student-teacher texting and Facebook communications in a bid to reduce sexual misconduct by staff. Not only does this have an effect on the disparity in primary sources of communication by students, but could also hamper wider educational benefits of Web 2.0 tools.

The policy set out by the Virginia Board of Education states that students and staff should not interact via text messaging, instant messaging, online gaming and social networking.

There should be one rule, and one rule only. Keep communications to school-provided email. Do you not agree?

It is very common for the Generation Y and Z to communicate through seemingly innate channels like social networking and text messaging. But when dealing with an older generation the lines can become blurred and unclear. Common sense often prevails, but merging personal and work communications is dangerous: not only for students, but equally for staff.

Yet higher education institutions are different than schools, where a level of authority needs to be maintained. In universities and colleges the boundaries are more fluid. But students are over the age of majority where by the rules are relaxed, whilst still maintaining a professional student-teacher relationship.

In my experience, while many members of academic staff have Facebook and mobile phones, it would be awkward and professionally unethical to communicate with students via these methods. It works both ways, however, with students often not resorting to Facebook to communicate with their lecturers.

Though strangely, it is not uncommon to buy a member of academic staff a pint when you see them out in the same pub as you on a night out.

But for the benefit of maintaining an air of professionalism, either as staff or students, stick to school-provided email as the safest bet. Not only is it a one-stop shop for the student or the academic staff member to keep record of their communications, it also protects the younger kids and staff alike from unmonitored communications.

Do you think student-teacher online relationships should be school-provided email only? Or can Facebook and text messaging help bridge the generational barrier?

Topics: CXO, Social Enterprise

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42 comments
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  • Denial is not education

    Virginia is long known for throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Rather than deal with misconduct on a case by case basis, or creating an Acceptable Use Policy for Web 2.0 interaction, it arbitrarily blocks all use, thereby rolling back technology innovation to the early 1990s.

    While schools in some states are creating school clubs and course support pages on Facebook, sending out textblasts to cancel team practices, or notify students of special events to better reach their students, Virginia puts up a firewall.

    The State Board needs to remember that the best defense against predatory behavior is education of appropriate and inappropriate uses of Web 2.0 technologies, not running in fear of them.
    Lisa Chamberlin
    • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

      @Lisa Chamberlin This is a sensible policy for the protection for all parties concerned. If you put up AUP's then you have to enforce them. There is nothing wrong with why anyone in the K-12 system (which is what is the main topic here) cannot interact with the teacher via phone calls through the office, school provided email, or written communications through the school. The school board is denying nothing - simply setting precident to shelter themselves and their employees from needless and frivilous lawsuits.
      JT82
      • Fear itself

        @JT82

        The gist of the policy is to protect students from harmful 1-1 predatory actions of teachers via web 2.0 technologies (i.e. sexual misconduct or other inappropriate communication). The reality is there already is policy in place for that (technological contact or in person) and this policy will do absolutely nothing to stop someone with criminal/harmful intent. If the obvious legal, moral, human obligations don't stop a person with malicious intent, then a ban of Facebook/texting by the school board certainly won't.

        By disallowing Facebook (and the sites either are/will be blocked), you disallow opportunities to teach about appropriate and safe information sharing.

        As Scott McLeod stated on another site about this ban, it is like the state board is saying that they trust teachers with the students themselves, but not with communicating with them. Really?

        Oh, by the way, teachers still live in the communities they teach in. Are they to run the other way if a student comes up to say hello outside of school for fear of a 1-1 communication?

        It's a slippery slope when you begin to create fear around your kids communicating with the very people you entrust them to every day...
        Lisa Chamberlin
      • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

        @JT82 I think you are buying into the hysteria here. It's easier to conclude that no inappropriate conduct can be [i]alleged[/i] in face to face contact on the street - it's public and there are witnesses. When you get into text messages and facebook - it's a little more tricky and leaves a larger opportunity for sue happy families to bring false greievences against the school. Having a policy like this doesn't preclude the child from learning about information sharing - infact this is something the schools should have limited teaching of, that's the [b]parent's[/b] responsibility.
        JT82
      • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

        @JT82 You're fulla garbage. This is exactly what was said by Lisa. Get real. More dumb ideas from the schools. I get sick to my butt seeing this stupidity. Schools should EMBRACE technology and TEACH proper use of it, not ban it because they are too archaic to understand it.
        blueskip
      • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

        @JT82 having a good reason for the policy is not the same as having a good policy. You could stop this misconduct from happening by placing every teacher and child in solitary confinement in a super max prison, but that isn't what i would call a good policy. And in this case, the policy won't even stop it from happening, it will only stop these technologies from being used constructively.

        While texting, facebook, and other "newer" methods of communication often don't actually improve on email or voice, they are popular fads and as such may result in more participation by students; just not in Virginia.
        RedVeg
      • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

        @JT82

        The year is 2011. Social communication systems such as texting, tweeting, Facebook, etc. are a reality, and will be a reality in the lives of these students. One part of the purpose of public education is to prepare the next generation for the challenges it will face. I submit that the use of these sorts of new technologies is one of those challenges... *and dealing with the ways in which they can be used inappropriately is another*. We don't do our students any favors by simply denying them access to otherwise useful modes of information.

        If the *real* goal is to deal with frivolous lawsuits, then let's address that goal directly. If the *real* goal is to prevent inappropriate student-teacher contact, then let's address that goal directly. The denial of entire methods of communication denies students and teachers their benefits, while doing little or nothing to address frivolous lawsuits or inappropriate student-teacher contact.

        The school board isn't addressing its problems... it's hiding them, and getting in the way of education in the process.
        MikeAlt
    • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

      @Lisa Chamberlin, I would agree with you in principal, but the fact is that email is a perfectly convenient method of communication, and anyone who has access to Facebook and other social sites has access to email. Texting is another issue (at least until all students have smart phones, which probably won't take long...), and I believe they should have made an exception for text messages for "emergency" situations, like the need to pass an urgent message while the recipient may be away from the phone (I personally vastly prefer a text message to a voice mail.) Keeping all communications through one convenient, almost ubiquitous accessible tool (email) is sensible (you only have one place to search when wanting to reference a previous communication) and prudent.
      didier9
    • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

      @Lisa Chamberlin

      This isn't about technologies, it's about inappropriate communication. Whether it's face to face or phone or scraps of paper passed around in class or body language, it's the inappropriate that matters.

      Banning common forms of communication will have no effect at all. Also, unlike face-to-face, all the new technologies record the messages, so there's no he said/she said confusion.

      So agree on baby with the bathwater ;-)
      tonymcs@...
      • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

        @tonymcs@... AMEN!
        Shooting the messenger is idiocy, but then again, consider the source. Rarely do businesses, governments, school boards or other bureaucratic bodies ever make intelligent decisions. That's why the rest ofthe world is eating our lunch and stealing our jobs, all while getting smarter than us. Here's just one more example of American Idiocy.
        sjobs84
  • Delete

    Double post
    Lisa Chamberlin
  • These should be banned in all schools

    So far Goverment and private companies also not into text & IM.

    But I do hope customer support division can use IM.
    FADS_z
    • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

      @FADS_z

      i text for work very frequently... text and IM are standard tools of communication
      erik.soderquist
  • Violates 1st amendment

    [i]The policy set out by the Virginia Board of Education states that students and staff should not interact via text messaging, instant messaging, online gaming and social networking.[/i]

    That'll last all of a few weeks. It is an unconstitutional government restriction on freedom of speech directly contrary to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which is applicable to the states under the 14th Amendment.
    Rick_R
    • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

      @Rick_R Re-read the Constitution. This amounts to nothing more than a formal policy that restricts the ability for personal and private communications to interact with students. When interacting with students you are to use official channels; telephone from the school, school provided email, and letters with school letterhead. This is NOT a first amendment issue.

      The First Amendment (in full text)"
      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

      How does this amount to "restricting speech" (when applied with the intent of the Founding Fathers) when they are limiting contact through official channels? It's no different than my work (which is a Government entity) says their internet is for official use only with 30 minutes of personal browsing time?
      JT82
      • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

        @JT82 The supreme court ruled that money is speech, so surely these electronic communications are speech.
        RedVeg
      • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

        @JT82

        Not quite. They can say you can't surf on their internet connection, not bar you from communicating over the internet at all.

        Furthermore, good teachers are friends, tutor, coaches, and role models to students. Walling off children from all potentially positive influences because they may encounter a negative one is exceedingly stupid, though it may account for the generational culture gap.
        tkejlboom
    • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

      @Rick_R
      Complete nonsense, you don't have a clue what the First Amendment is about.
      Doctor Demento
    • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

      @Rick_R Doesn't pretty much -everything- seem to violate the 1st amendment in some way or another? Forgive my naivety but it just seems to be a wildcard excuse for practically everything.
      zwhittaker
    • RE: Virginia bans student-teacher texting: One simple rule of school communications

      @Rick_R

      An employer has every right to restrict your speech. The 1st amendment does not protect you from that, and courts have said so.

      Also the 1st amendment does not guarantee you a job. In this case the student-teacher cannot go to jail or be fined for a violation, he would merely lose his job.
      Michael Kelly