School may be out of session, but Stafford County teachers have been given new rules to follow.
During their June 23 school board meeting, the Stafford County School Board unanimously approved revisions to the school division’s Standard of Professional Conduct for All Employees, which ‘sets forth expectations for employee behavior both in and outside the workplace, as well as with students in-person and remote,’ according to school board documentation.
The changes to the Standard of Professional Conduct for All Employees allows staff to utilize school division Wi-Fi for personal reasons and prohibits staff from communicating with students via social media or personal email accounts, among other things.
The revised social media regulations for staff come in light of the recent scandal involving the Prince William County Schools Superintendant Steven L. Walts. Walts shut down his Twitter and Instagram accounts due to allegations of inappropriate communication with students via Twitter direct messages, something that was against Prince William County Schools policy.
The revisions were proposed and sent forth to by the school board’s Governance Committee, which consists of Susan Randall, Committee Chair (George Washington District), Irene Hollerback, Committee Vice-Chair (Aquia District), and Holly Hazard, Committee Member (Hartwood District).
“Employees shall use school division resources, including school division time, property, and technology, only for legitimate school business. This provision neither prohibits employees from personal use of the school division’s internet connection (Wi-Fi) nor does it prohibit employees from the occasional personal use of emails,” stated the revised Standard of Professional Conduct for All Employees for Stafford County Schools.
“Electronic mail communications with students shall be sent only through official SCPS email accounts. Employees shall not communicate with students using cellular telephones or social media applications, unless such communications are for the purposes set forth in paragraph A [school-related instances, remote learning] and are necessary for effective communication with a student,” stated the revised Standard of Professional Conduct for All Employees for Stafford County Schools.
While staff members are not allowed to communicate with students from their personal email accounts, it is not a violation if staff members respond to an email sent from a student’s personal email account.
“For students, the strong preference is always to use the students’ SCPS email account; however, if a student contacts an employee from the student’s personal email account, the employee can respond to that email without violating this section,” said the Stafford Education Association.
The school board plans to review the revisions within a year, but no official plans have been confirmed.
“I would love to review it after a year and see if something comes up that we need to revisit… Our language, revision, deletion, that may resurface after a year,” said George Washington District Member Susan Randall.
The board additionally approved revisions to the student code of conduct, which will ban the use of cell phones in classrooms for ‘instructional purposes.’ With this ban in place, Stafford high school students will only be allowed to use their phones before and after school, during lunch, and in areas specifically designated by administration.
Stafford middle school students, on the other hand, will only be allowed to use their cell phones just before and after school. This ban is accompanied by a removal of liability from Stafford schools if a student’s personally owned device is lost, damaged, misused, or stolen at school, as well as allow the school division to inspect a student’s device.
“SCPS, school administration, or the school’s administrative designee reserves the right to monitor, inspect, copy, and review a personally owned device or file when administration has a reasonable suspicion that a violation has occurred,” stated the revision to Regulation 2401, exhibit one.