More teachers are embracing electronic media to stay in touch with students, posting assignments on Facebook or answering homework questions via text message.
But learning to take advantage of technology without crossing the social networking line can be a minefield.
Because messages can be misinterpreted, school districts and state education officials are taking steps to be more clear about the rules that govern the use of electronic communication with students.
On Dec. 26, new state rules take effect that say educators must "refrain from inappropriate communication with a student," including use of cellphones, text messaging, e-mail, instant messaging, blogging or other social networking.
The change is part of an update to the Texas Educators' Code of Ethics proposed by the State Board for Educator Certification and endorsed by the State Board of Education last month.
Ethics violations can result in sanctions ranging from reprimands to loss of a teaching certificate.
Staffers at the Texas Education Agency proposed the changes because teachers were being referred for discipline by school district administrators for sending students "thousands" of text messages.
And while the content of the messages was not necessarily inappropriate, the volume and time of day could mean that the adult may have been "grooming" the child for a sexual relationship, the TEA said in a November news release.
New rules allow officials to look at the totality of the communications between the adult and the student. The previous ethics code did not address social media, said Debbie Ratcliffe, a TEA spokeswoman.
"It's just a growing area of concern, and we didn't have much guidance about how to provide that," Ratcliffe said. "It should make it clearer for teachers. Sometimes it's not what they say. It's the way they go about it."
Many Texas school districts, including Birdville, Keller, Hurst-Euless-Bedford and Mansfield, are changing their policies and procedures to give educators more guidance.
"We understand and recognize that social media tools are tremendous assets in education," said Richie Escovedo, Mansfield schools spokesman.
"It's a situation where the technology has outpaced the laws and everybody is still trying to get caught up. Everything we can do to help our teachers recognize the potential pitfalls will help us be in good shape."
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