RUIZ BILL REQUIRING SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO ESTABLISH POLICIES FOR ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN EMPLOYEES AND STUDENTS HEADS TO GOVERNOR

State Senator Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex and Union, speaks about legislation pertaining to the FY 2011 Budget.

 TRENTON Legislation sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz to require school districts to adopt policies concerning electronic communications between school employees and students enrolled in the district was approved today by both houses of the Legislature. It now heads to the desk of the governor.

 “We know that technology can serve as a useful education tool in the classroom, and the fact that it is rapidly evolving creates opportunities for students and teachers to improve the learning experience,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “But the increasingly expanded use of texting, social networking and other online platforms also creates the potential for confusion about proper methods of communication between teachers and students. We have to ensure that the rules are clear, both for the protection of students and professionals. Requiring that school districts institute a policy for electronic communications will better ensure that school employees are aware of the boundaries that exist with students and that appropriate communications take place.”

Under the bill (S-441), every public school district would be required to adopt a written policy concerning electronic communications between school employees and students enrolled in the district.  The policy must include provisions designed to prevent improper communications between school employees and students made via e-mail, cellular phones, social networking websites, and other Internet-based social media. Under the legislation, a school district must adopt its plan within 120 days of the effective date of the bill.

“We don’t want to preclude any districts from using technology in innovative ways. This is about ensuring that employees, students and parents are aware of what should and should not be transmitted over phones, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms,” added Senator Ruiz. “This measure provides flexibility to school districts to adopt their own policies regarding electronic communications that fit their individual school needs.”

The bill was approved unanimously in the Senate and the General Assembly.