VA Teacher/Student Electronic Communication

A lot has been said and posted recently about the VA School Board’s “Proposed Guidelines for the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct & Abuse in Virginia Public Schools”.  My introduction to the guidelines came last Friday during a professional development session on Facebook and teachers.  There was a lively discussion among the participants, which is what the presenter was hoping for in this session.  The most important argument stems from the need to move students into a 21st century world, not move them back to the days before technology.  Numerous teachers, administrators, college professors, and parents have chimed in on the discussion – VA Stu/Tchr Electronic Communication – making solid, well-informed arguments.

  • “As a parent of a 2nd grade child in Virginia public schools, this proposed policy terrifies me. ” – parent, technology trainer and blogger
  • “Common sense and a firm understanding of social networking should lead us to see that this is a poorly written bill, would be bad policy and would send the wrong message to our kids.” – director of technology
  • “The suggestions in this document are not likely to prevent sexual misconduct but will certainly get in the way of good teaching and positive teacher/community relationships, especially moving forward in the digital age.” – NETS*T certified teacher
  • “We respect our students and know they are using 21st Century tools as a matter of daily routine. As their teachers, we need to connect with them where they are, not force them into their grandparents’ antique world.” – elearning integrator

I certainly endorse the need for providing for the safety, care, health and welfare of all students, but I believe this policy goes a little too far.  It establishes a MOST restrictive policy in all areas, not just electronic communication, with vague language and insufficient supporting materials and references.

I am glad that the VA Board has chosen to delay voting on these guidelines in order to garner commentary and support from reliable sources such as VSTE;  however, I worry that this may turn into a political issue that will follow the lines of public opinion rather than educated opinion.

I have to agree with another veteran English teacher who commented on the Google document, “…I don’t enjoy being treated like a third-grader who can’t do something because Timmy did something wrong.”  As educators we need to be guiding students in the proper methods of communication, not endorsing one means of communication over another.  Students and parents use cell phones and texting to communicate with each other as well as their friends, family and teachers.  The problem is not the device, it is the actions of ourselves and our students.