Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

WV State News

October 9, 2013

Raleigh Co. board bans teachers texting students

BECKLEY — The Raleigh County Board of Education has banned teachers from sending personal texts to students following the firings of two teachers accused of sending inappropriate texts to students.

Board member Cynthia Jafary said that the policy is designed to give school employees guidelines for how to communicate with students.

“We don’t want to shut down communication between staff and students,” she told The Register-Herald prior to the policy’s approval during the board’s Tuesday meeting. “But we want it to be within the realm that’s appropriate, and unfortunately, sometimes people just don’t understand under normal circumstances, what’s appropriate.”

This summer, the board fired Lori Lester, who was accused of sending inappropriate texts to a 13-year-old male student at Trap Hill Middle School, and Woodrow Wilson High School Michael “Chuck” Cooper, who was accused of sending inappropriate texts to a female student. No criminal charges have been fired in either case.

Schools Superintendent Jim Brown said that the new policy “prohibits any type of close personal relationship ... that may reasonably be perceived as inappropriate” between a student and staff member, including excessive socialization that would cause parents, students or the public to believe an inappropriate relationship exists.

The policy does not ban texting related to school or extracurricular activities, he said.

Jafary said that the policy encourages teachers and staff to use a school-based system that allows coaches, teachers and principals to send electronic messages to students and parents regarding snow days, homework assignments, classroom events and practices. There was not a negative reaction from teachers to the policy during a 30-day comment period she said.

“I don’t think teachers want to get themselves in a situation where their text messages would be perceived in a bad way,” she said.

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