Carthage R-IX

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P 4650 Communication with Students by Electronic Media

Employee-Student Communication

Definitions:

Staff Member - For the purposes of this policy, a staff member is any individual employed by the District, including part-time and substitute staff members, or individuals who are serving as student teachers in the District.

Students - Individuals currently enrolled in the Carthage R-9 School District.

Educational Purpose - A reason associated with the staff member's duties in the District including, but not limited to: counseling, the treatment of a student's physical injury, or coordination of an extracurricular activity, depending on the staff member's job description.

Staff members are encouraged to communicate with students and parents/guardians for educational purposes and may use a variety of effective methods, including electronic communication. The Carthage R-9 School District requires that all electronic or any other communications by staff members to students or parents at any time be professional, acceptable in content to any reasonable person, and limited to information that is school-related or is acceptable to both student and parent. This directive is applicable regardless of whether the method of communication is through District-provided devices or the staff member uses his or her own personal electronic communication devices, accounts, webpages or other forms of electronic communication.

The District's policies, regulations, procedures and expectations regarding communications at school and during the school day also apply to electronic communications for educational purposes, regardless of when those communications occur.

Staff members are reminded that their on-campus and off-campus conduct may impact their ability to function professionally and effectively in the Carthage School District environment. Therefore, staff members who set up personal electronic social networking websites on their home or personal computers do so at their own risk and are responsible for the content, including, but not limited to, material posted by the staff members, their friends or members of the public who can access their websites; or content that is linked to the staff member's websites. Staff members are strongly encouraged to keep their personal websites and other electronic networks private and prevent students, or the parents of students, from accessing their personal websites.

Staff members should ensure the content of personal websites does not violate the Carthage R-9 School District Staff Conduct policy (4630), the Carthage R-9 School District Instructional Services policy (6242), the Carthage R-9 School District Internet Usage and Safety policy (6320), the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), or harm the staff member's ability to function professionally and effectively in the Carthage R-9 School District environment.

Therefore, staff members may not:

  1. Set up, update, or use their personal electronic social networking websites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) at work using the Carthage School District's computers, network or equipment;
  2. Knowingly allow students, or the parents of students, access to their personal social networking website or webpage if it addresses or portrays behaviors associated with the staff member's private life that would be inappropriate to discuss with a student at school, such as sex, nudity, alcohol or drug use; and
  3. Post information identifying students on a personal website, webpage, or a social networking site, without the permission of a supervisor.

Supervisors may authorize a staff member to communicate with students using the staff member's personal telephone numbers, addresses, webpages or accounts (including, but not limited to, accounts used for texting) to organize or facilitate a District-sponsored class or activity if the communication is determined necessary or beneficial and is related to the class or activity. The District will notify parents/guardians when students are participating in classes or activities for which personal electronic communications have been approved. (See Staff-Student Communication Permission Form) Staff members are required to provide all education-related communications with District students to their supervisors upon request, and may be required to send the communications to parents/guardians simultaneously, if directed to do so.

The District does not have sufficient staff to monitor every communication between staff members and students and does not, therefore, commit to monitoring such communication. Nonetheless, where there is reason to believe that a staff member has inappropriately communicated with a student or students, the District may require the staff member to provide access to the specific communication in question.

Although this policy applies to the relationships between staff members and District students, staff members who interact inappropriately with any child may be disciplined or terminated when the District determines such action is necessary to protect children. The restrictions on electronic communication in this policy do not apply to the employee's children, who are District students.

Disciplinary Action

Staff members who violate this policy will be disciplined, up to and including termination of employment. Depending on the circumstances, the District may report staff members to law enforcement and the Children's Division (CD) of the Department of Social Services for further investigation. Furthermore, the District may seek revocation of a staff member's license(s) with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) or governing body.

Reporting

Any person who has concerns about or is uncomfortable with a relationship or activities between a staff member and a student should bring this concern immediately to the principal, counselor or staff member's supervisor. All staff members who know or have reasonable cause to suspect child abuse shall immediately report the suspected abuse in accordance with District policy. Staff members must also immediately report a violation or perceived violation of the District's discrimination and harassment policy (2130) to the District's nondiscrimination compliance officer, the Assistant Superintendent for Business. Staff members may be disciplined for failing to make such reports.

Training

The District will provide training to District staff that includes current and reliable information on identifying signs of sexual abuse in children and potentially abusive relationships between children and adults. The training will emphasize legal reporting requirements and cover how to establish an atmosphere where students feel comfortable discussing matters related to abuse.


Board Approved Date: August 19, 2013
Last Updated: August 2013