Changes restrict communication between teachers and students

Staff Writer

JACKSON — The Jackson School District Board of Education has approved policy changes that focus on electronic communications between teachers or support staff employees and students.

The changes, which were mandated by state law, cover social media and cellphones, and provide guidelines for the men and women who interact with students on a daily basis.

According to the policies, the board acknowledged that “[teaching and support] staff members and students can be vulnerable in electronic communications.”

Electronic communications, according to the district, include “emails, text messages, instant messages and communications made by means of an Internet website.” The policy prohibits any messages between students and staff members that would be sent via “telephone, cellular phone, computer, computer network, personal data assistant or pager.”

According to the resolutions, the polices were put in place in order to avoid improper conversations between school district employees and pupils, including sexually explicit messages or messages that encourage the use of drugs or alcohol.

Instances in which an inappropriate conversation occurs between a pupil and an employee were described in the policy as proof that the employee was “unfit to discharge the duties and functions of his or her position.”

When it comes to email messages, a teacher may not use his or her personal email address to communicate with a student.

If a student sends an email to an employee’s personal email address, the employee is required to inform the school principal by the next school day, at which point the administrator will address the issue with the student.

According to the policy, teachers and support staff members “shall have no expectation of privacy” when it comes to their district-provided email address, as those addresses are subject to review by district administrators.

While the district prohibits support staff employees from conversing with students online, officials approved changes to the policies that provide an exception to employees who are related to certain students.

School districts throughout the state were required to approve similar changes to their electronic communications policies at the start of the 2014-15 school year.