New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law on April 24th that will require each school district in the state to create and oversee a set of guidelines for electronic communications between teachers and students. These guidelines need to be in place by mid August, before the start of next school year.
The New Jersey School Boards Association has taken a first step, by issuing a draft reference manual to help school districts craft their own set of rules, specifically referencing cell phones, email and social media. The highlights are as follows:
- School employees may not “friend” students on networking sites without written approval of the school principal
- All electronic communication with students must be through the district’s computer and telephone systems
- All electronic communication sent by coaches and extracurricular advisors to students must be sent to all participants
- School employees will not give out their private cell phone or home phone numbers to students without approval of the principal
Within these recommended guidelines, some types of communication are (obviously) not permitted, including sexual content, content related to drugs, alcohol, illegal activities and anything in violation of school policies.
Most of that seems like common sense, except the idea that social media connections between students and teachers need be pre approved, which means that they aren’t going to happen at all if policies are implemented in this way. There is some irony here – in January NJ passed a law that will make it the first state in the nation to mandate social media education for middle school students. Teachers will be instructing on social media use but prevented from actually using it with students.
To our mind, a better solution would be to require educators to use school-administered social media accounts rather that their personal accounts, as has been required by recently enacted New York City school electric communications regulations. Rather than connecting with students as Facebook.com/Bob.Smith the teacher could use Facebook.com/OurHS_Mr_Smith.
Consider the following quote from the nj.com article linked above:
The problem is not the interaction but the improper interaction between people. This is where the line should be drawn. Technology is the way of the future. Limiting its use in any way is basically limiting education.
Keeping teachers’ personal lives separate from their professional ones is a good idea. Teaching social media while at the same time prohibiting teacher/student interaction on any social networks seems likely to fall short of the desired mark.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.