At a time when many school districts are crafting stricter regulations about teachers text messaging with students, the Franklin Local Schools district in Ohio is embracing texting as an effective means of engaging students.
District officials sent permission slips home to parents of Franklin students this year asking if they would allow teachers to text message directly with their child on matters pertaining to class assignments, sports, or other extracurricular activities. Franklin High School principal Dave Riegle said the district wanted to give teachers a way to reach their students if they needed to, while allowing for transparency with the students’ parents.
“Most of the situations involve extracurriculars, coaching situations, the fall play or somewhere along those lines,” Riegle said. “We wanted there to be full transparency when a student and an adult need to communicate in that way, so that the parents were aware that they communication was going on, and there wouldn’t be any questions raised about the conduct of our staff members.”
School districts and lawmakers around the country have been developing policies on social media interaction and text messaging. Because of a number of scandals where teachers have committed or been accused of misconduct with a student using electronic communications, many school districts have erred on the side of caution.
With school districts in Butler and Warren counties, it’s a mixed bag. Some Ohio districts—such as Middletown City Schools and Fenwick—don’t allow teachers to interact with students through social media or text messaging. Meanwhile, others—such as Hamilton, Edgewood, and Madison—have policies similar to Franklin’s, where parents must first sign a permission form.
Text messaging has become the mode of communication many teens feel most comfortable with. A 2011 study done by the Pew Research Center showed teens send an average of 60 text messages per day. That number was up from 50 texts per day in 2009.
“It’s not just young people, I think it’s the way that our society communicates now,” Riegle said. “And if we want to be current and be able to communicate with our students, then that’s one tool that we can use.”
Byron McCauley, a senior director of public relations with Cincinnati-based Knowledge Works, said anytime technology can enhance the student-teacher experience, it’s a good thing.