Florida District Considers Teacher-Student Texting Ban
By guest blogger Mike Bock
Florida's Hernando County School Board will soon vote on a texting ban between students and teachers, which could end up being the latest in a series of measures across the country aimed at limiting digital interaction between educators and pupils.
The proposal, designed to encourage school-approved modes of communication and potentially keep teachers out of legal trouble, will presumably be voted on by July 31. [CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this post did not specify when the vote will occur.]
Bryan Blavatt, the superintendent of the 23,100-student Hernando County school district, told Hernando Today that outside of emergency situations, there is little reason teachers should be interacting with students outside of school-approved methods of communication, which are easier to monitor. As Hernando Today reports:
Educators can still call individual students on their cellphones and message them using Facebook or other electronic media, but while they're technically allowed to do so, Blavatt said it's strongly recommended they don't.
"We're constantly having to deal with electronic media and we want to send a consistent message to staff," Blavatt said. "As far as the Facebook messaging and phone calls—we can't carte blanche say they can't do it. But we can say we don't think it's a good idea and that they shouldn't do it."
Some school districts across the country have been regulating digital communications for years. In 2009, Education Week's Katie Ash wrote about a Louisiana law that requires documentation of every electronic interaction between teachers and students through a non-school-issued device.
Some districts, such as the Minnetonka school system in Minnesota, have avoided an outright ban, instead emphasizing social media guidelines that stress professional interactions and transparency. There doesn't appear to be a statewide consensus on the horizon, as Minnesota teachers are split between privacy concerns and potential practical uses of new technology. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports:
"There's no one right way to approach it," said Aimee Bissonette, a Richfield attorney who counsels districts on social media. "I think everyone is struggling with this issue. The main thing is to let teachers know there are risks. But if you're transparent and making sure your communication is open, that risk is hugely minimized."
Research Intern Layla Bonnot contributed to this article.