State laws regarding social media and communication with students are catching up to the world we live in now. The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is taking a hard look at accusations of improper communication between students and teachers with many teachers having their certifications revoked.
Every employee needs to know what the Texas Educator Code of Ethics says regarding communication with students.
“The educator shall refrain from inappropriate communication with a student or minor, including, but not limited to, electronic communication such as cell phone, text messaging, email, instant messaging, blogging, or other social network communication.”
The Texas Educator Code of Ethics even spells out factors that may be used to determine if the communication is inappropriate:
- The nature, purpose, timing, and amount of communication;
- The subject matter of the communication;
- Whether the communication was made openly or the educator attempted to conceal the communication;
- Whether the communication could be reasonably interpreted as soliciting sexual contact or a romantic relationship;
- Whether the communication was sexually explicit; and
- Whether the communication involved discussion(s) of the physical or sexual attractiveness or the sexual history, preferences, or fantasies of the educator or the student.
Yes. The guidelines are that detailed and specific and they cover all forms of electronic communication (text messages, SnapChat, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.).
Not only do you have to follow the Educator Code of Ethics but your school district may have even stricter rules regarding communicating with students. Carefully check your employee handbook or policies of your district to make sure you are not in violation.
Here are a few examples:
- Arlington ISD restricts communication of any sort between the hours of 10 pm to 5 am.
- HEB ISD requires that employees who are authorized to communicate via text with students must also send a copy of the message to the employee’s district email address.
- Mansfield ISD mandates that authorized employees who can text message with students must also copy at least one parent and their immediate supervisor on any text messages to students.
COMMUNICATION ADVICE FOR TEACHERS: Mike Vorsino, UEA Staff attorney, and former high school teacher discusses his experience of representing teachers at SBEC.