Bryan County school board members have started talking about a policy to limit interaction between teachers and students through text messaging and social media such as Facebook.
Member Charles Johnson raised the issue near the end of the Bryan County Board of Education meeting Thursday at Lanier Primary School. No action was taken on that topic, but the board did unanimously adopt a code of ethics and a conflict of interest policy for its own members, using state models for both.
Taking his turn during the board member comments, Johnson said inappropriate relationships between educators and students appear to be on the increase.
“We see it on the news and everywhere else, and a lot of this occurs and starts over social networking, Facebook and things like that as well as text messaging, and I know that we’ve had a couple of these issues crop up in our system the past few years,” Johnson said.
He gave fellow board members handouts on the Mobile County, Ala., school system’s proposed staff conduct policy and handbook changes related to social media.
A sixth-grade teacher at Mobile’s Causey Middle School was suspended in January after a parent expressed concern over the male teacher sending a Facebook message to a 12-year-old girl. The parent said the message was not vulgar or sexual, and Mobile officials discovered they had no specific policy on the issue.
Johnson suggested that the Mobile policy, or parts of it, might be adapted into one for Bryan County. He added that he first became concerned a couple of years ago when he attended a girls’ softball event and a teenage player showed him a text she received from a male coach commenting on how she had “looked” on the field and asking what she was doing.
“The only reason I saw that text message was because it went to my son’s girlfriend. ... And not suggesting anything inappropriate, but the fact that a male teacher was contacting a female student at 11 o’clock at night, using a text message, in my opinion was not very good,” Johnson said. “Those are the kinds of things we need to be aware of, if nothing else.”
For more, pick up a copy of the March 2 edition of the News.