Schools are starting back across the state, and teachers are making some changes to the way they use social media to communicate with their students.

" /> New School Year, New Code of Ethics for Teacher-Student Relationships | News | Mississippi Public Broadcasting
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New School Year, New Code of Ethics for Teacher-Student Relationships

By Daniel Cherry | Published 09 Aug 2011 08:20pm | comments

As Mississippi schools start up another year teachers have more to worry about than just lesson plans. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how educators have new rules about how they use social media.

The revised Mississippi educator code of conduct says teachers can't have any one on one interaction with their students via social media or electronic communication like texting. Attorney Jim Keith has been working with the state department of education to inform teachers how to comply with the new rules.

"The problem is, if you allow students to text message, individually, a teacher and vice versa, you're establishing a personal connectivity that violates that professional student-teacher relationship that must exist at all times."

Keith says he's litigated ten different cases involving sexual misconduct by a teacher with a minor. All ten had used texts to contact the student. Teachers can still use these means to communicate with their students IF it's not personal. Sandra Hannis of Edinburgh says she sees the updated policy as a step in the right direction.

"I think that's a good thing. As parents, we can't keep an eye on them 24 hours a day, and we can't see what they're doing 24 hours a day on Facebook, and you don't know who they're chatting with or who they're talking to."

Schools have always had the rules, but most were implied. Now the teacher must sign off on the new ethics code in their contract. Kevin Gilbert is the Executive Director of the Mississippi Association of Educators. He says the new rules hold teachers accountable.

"Educators have to be careful to make sure they're not being seen as being inappropriate. It leaves a flexibility for school districts to determine their best social media policy. At the same time we're still cautioning educators that you have to be careful, you have to be mindful, and, never forget, you have a responsibility for the safety of our students.

Mississippi is one of the last southern states to adopt social media guidelines. Officials hope it will close loopholes in prosecuting offending teachers.

See the complete updated code of ethics here.

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