Bill passed in State House requires rules for teacher-student electronic communication

In an age of email and social media, state lawmakers say they want educators to take responsibility for communication between students and staff members.

In an age of email and social media, state lawmakers say they want educators to take responsibility for communication between students and staff members. (2/27/14)

TRENTON - In an age of email and social media, state lawmakers say they want educators to take responsibility for communication between students and staff members.

The state Senate and Assembly passed a bill Thursday requiring every district in the state to set ground rules about text messages, email, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of electronic communication.

"What we're trying to accomplish today is to ensure that it's responsible communication," says state Sen.Teresa Ruiz.

Lawmakers and educators agree that the future of education will involve online connections between teachers and their students.

"I think they're phenomenally helpful," Ruiz says. "I certainly have witnessed certain districts or schools utilizing these measures, sending out information on snow days, etc. to get information out across the board."

But lawmakers say along with traditional means comes access to Facebook and Twitter. In the last year alone, there have been several high profile examples of networking becoming more social than either parents or police officers would like.

Steve Wollmer, of the NJEA, says the state's largest teachers union supports the bill.  Some districts are already exploring the idea of making some inappropriate posts cause for firing.

"What teachers don't want to be doing is friending students on Facebook, talking negatively about things going on in the school," Wollmer says. "If they reflect badly on the district, they can face disciplinary issues."

The electronic communications bill passed both houses of the Legislature today, and now goes to the governor's desk for his consideration. 

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