Monday, November 22, 2010

Teachers, don't flirt with students using social media in Texas

Don't Stand So Close To MeTeachers...don't get frisky with students in Texas using social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. That's the lesson from an updated Educators’ Code of Ethics recently endorsed by the State Board of Education. The Code of Ethics was updated by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), which oversees educator certification issues.

Texas Education Agency staff says it wanted the updated ethics code because too many disciplinary case referrals were coming in. It seems these cases involved teachers who were found to have sent students thousands of text messages. A release from the TEA says sometimes the content of the messages was not inappropriate on their face, but the volume of messages and time of day the messages were sent indicated that the educator was “grooming” the student for a future sexual relationship. Please no Facebook "poking" feature jokes here.

The law says a school district employee commits a second-degree felony under Penal Code Section 21.12 if the employee engages in sexual contact with a student who is not their spouse. Here is where Beyonce Knowles' Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) song comes in I guess. I can imagine all all of the news stories that would be written if a teacher tried to marry a student. Interesting law there.

The new provision in the Code of Ethics says:

(I) Standard 3.9. 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. Factors that may be considered in assessing whether the communication is inappropriate include, but are not limited to:
(i) the nature, purpose, timing, and amount of the communication;
(ii) the subject matter of the communication;
(iii) whether the communication was made openly or the educator attempted to conceal the communication;
(iv) whether the communication could be reasonably interpreted as soliciting sexual contact or a romantic relationship;
(v) whether the communication was sexually explicit; and
(vi) whether the communication involved discussion(s) of the physical or sexual attractiveness or the sexual history, activities, preferences, or fantasies of either the educator or the student.

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