Teacher/Student Electronic Communications

nhhs-logoThis week, we got our first look at the implementation of a new law regarding communication between New Jersey public school employees and students. North Hunterdon High School sent an email to parents of incoming students, which included the following:

“I want to bring to your attention a new state law (N.J.S.A. 18A:36-40) addressing electronic communications between staff members and students, for which our Board of Education has adopted a new policy effective immediately…

The sharing of personal email addresses and personal cell phone numbers between staff members and students is prohibited.  All text messaging between staff members and students is prohibited.  Staff members are prohibited from communicating with any student through personal social networking website or other Internet-based website, including personal websites.  Staff members shall not accept “friend” requests from any student, and if a staff member has already accepted such a request, they must permanently remove the student from their personal social networking website or other personal website.

The acceptable protocol for electronic communication between staff members and students shall be email sent through the district’s email system.  All staff members will communicate with students using their employee email account provided by the district.  All of our students are provided with a Google mail account and they will need to use this district account to send/receive emails to/from staff members.  Staff members may also utilize their teacher webpages on the high school’s website to post information for students.”

It is unfortunate that it has come this far – that the incidence of inappropriate student/teacher (going both ways) contact is high enough that this policy is required – especially since the cell phone has taken on such a significant position as a personal communication device. Let us be clear – most teachers are great people, but as a parent you need to talk to your kids about being wary. Even if your child’s communications are appropriate at all times, you have no idea when someone contacting your child will cross over into inappropriate territory. Unfortunately, teachers are not exempt from this possibility. Given the fact that policies such as this one are in place, it is important to ensure that kids know of their existence, and where to turn if they do encounter something inappropriate.


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