Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Updating SB54: What is and isn't fine.

Today was our first day back to work. It was highlighted by an hour-long presentation by our district's lawyer on school laws and policies such as FERPA (confidentiality) and student allergens. About halfway through, we were briefed on SB54 and it's impact on us as teachers. Come to think about it, the presentation and the bill were similar in that SB54 was neatly tucked into the middle and that was really the only thing anybody there was really concerned with.

A handful of us diligent educators and administrators stayed afterwards to discuss some issues with the lawyer and now I feel that I should make some updates to my previous blog over this which was posted last week. Unfortunately, I have the ability to think rationally and that hurt me when discussing SB54 the first time.

First off, let me once again preface this by saying what was reiterated to us several times today and that is it is up to the individual districts to create their policies on this. They have minimum guidelines to follow but can be more strict if they choose. Right now, the issue is that school is preparing to start, but since the bill was just signed recently, most districts don't have their policies yet. Odessa is one such district.

I visited privately with the lawyer afterwards and she said that any former student (and let me remind everyone that includes anybody 18 or under and not graduated) isn't to be "friended" on Facebook or texted privately. As I interpreted the law, you would still be okay having them if you weren't in the same district because the law says "IS employed." Not the case. So, I've got some work to do deleting a bunch of Lexington kids as well as a handful of Marionville and Mercer ones. Fortunately, Laura is friends with some of them, so I'll be able to be in contact with them through her which is fine.

Another interesting item was dealing with parents that are teachers. I remember reading somewhere on Facebook that somebody said the law exempts parents that teach their kids. Guess what. Not the case. There is no exemption according to the letter of the law. Now, that being said, the lawyer said there was no way that would ever hold up and she would "gladly defend" somebody that got in trouble for it and that's fine.

Public Facebook pages (such as the one for the Odessa Cross Country team and any others like it) are perfectly okay. It's classified as a "work-related internet site" and because anybody can follow it (there's no request to follow like when you try to friend someone) and there's not "exclusive access" it's fine.

Text messaging was another sticky issue though. Those group texts to your athletes or club members would violate the law. However, if you allow parents to be included on the group text list, that's fine. The possibility of having parents sign a consent form or waiver giving coaches/sponsors permission to text their son/daughter is out there as well. The funny this is that it's okay to call kids, you just can't text them. Doesn't make a lot of sense. I guess the General Assembly's feelings are that you can't show inappropriate pictures in a phone call, so that's fine.

Well, those are the major issues that I felt I should revisit now that I've been educated on it a little more. My brother has his district's day where they'll be briefed by their lawyer tomorrow, so maybe he'll be able to shed a little more light on the subject as well, and that's fine.

Time to get to deleting and that's not fine.

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