Advice on Internet Communications


Be cautious about opening ATTACHMENTS and WEBLINKS sent via email. 

Our district's spam filter scans email for known viruses, but you know that a lot of spam still gets through, and some of it is malicious. 

  • Do NOT open an attachment unless you trust the sender and the attachment is something you would normally expect from them. Even then, be aware that the return address on an email message can be easily faked. So if you are at all uncertain about an attachment, do NOT open it. Send a new email, NOT a reply, to the claimed sender using an email address you know is legitimate and verify that the attachment was sent by the person you trust.
  • Do NOT open weblinks in emails unless you know the sender. Do NOT assume the text you see is where the weblink really goes. A weblink in an email may be written to look like a web address, but the underlying link can go somewhere else entirely. The safest way to use a weblink is to know that the site it supposedly links to is legitimate and then go to that site on your own in your web browser. For example, if a link claims it goes to Promethean Planet at www.prometheanplanet.com, which is a legitimate site, you can go into your web browser and type in www.prometheanplanet.com in the address bar to make sure you go to the real site, not a malicious fake. Google can help verify a site is legitimate, since it tries to scan links for malicious content, but check the address shown in Google carefully before using it. And remember, email return addresses can be faked, so if in doubt, send a new email, NOT a reply, to the claimed sender to verify that a link you were sent is genuine.
  • The district, banks, vendors, shipping agencies, the government, etc. will NOT email you and ask you to use a weblink to reset a password, verify a parcel, etc. These are FAKE messages with malicious weblinks and should be deleted. If you want to go to a website, always type the address in yourself in your web browser or use Google to search for the proper address, paying attention, even in Google, to the address they show for a link. If a link looks odd or unusual, don't follow it.

Always ASSUME ANYONE CAN SEE ANYTHING you post. 

Once you post something on the internet, it is no longer under your control. Never assume it will remain private. The safest course is to assume that any student, parent, administrator, or relative will see it. You'll never regret behaving professionally when on the internet, but you may rue the day you let your hair down.

Be cautious about using SOCIAL NETWORKING.
Assume anyone at any time can see anything you post online. Social networking sites like Facebook may reveal much more about you than you realize since their privacy settings are often complex and always subject to change. Only with great caution should you "friend" a student in Facebook or other social networks. Obviously close family members who are also students are an exception, but many parents will be leery about their children becoming "friends" with a teacher on a social network. If you are a sophisticated Facebook user with controlled public posts students might want to see, you can allow "subscribers" and then students could subscribe to your profile without becoming your 'friend'.

If, as a teacher or because of some non-work-related context, such as youth ministry or other community work, you do "friend" a student, you had better make sure everything you post, and that includes every comment you make and every photo you post, is something you'd be proud to write on the board in your room and show to your students and their parents. Bear in mind that it is a bad idea to visit students' profiles since they are often unsophisticated about keeping their posts and interactions appropriate. If you want to use social networking features with a class, use a system like Edmodo, which limits interactions and gives parents access.

Under School Board Policy ECC, if you identify yourself as a school employee on a service you are NOT allowed to post any items with sexual content or exhibiting or advocating the use of drugs or alcohol. If you 'friend' a student on a service, the same restrictions apply and you are responsible for all of the information accessible to students via the service. In general, keep ALL communications professional in both tone and content.

You may not post pictures, video, or audio of students unless the parent (or the student, if he or she is over 17), has provided the building administrator with written permission to do so.

Avoid PRIVATE MESSAGES with students.

Student/staff contacts via email, phone, and other devices are limited to school-related professional business, per School Board Policy ECC. So you are allowed to contact students regarding homework assistance and activity logistics. YOU SHOULD USE YOUR SCHOOL-PROVIDED EMAIL ACCOUNT FOR THESE COMMUNICATIONS, not a personal email account. The policy includes exceptions for appropriate contacts in non-school contexts such as youth ministers, community organization members, babysitters, etc. as well as exceptions for an employee’s own son, daughter, niece, or nephew.

One of the most suspicious things for a teacher to do is to engage in regular "texts" or phone calls with a student. Now that many students have their own cell phones, parents are less aware of the communications which occur, and regular texts or calls is often a warning sign of an inappropriate relationship. You should only engage in private messages, whether by email or phone texts or voice calls, for official school business when other means of contact is not feasible. Keep your tone strictly professional and the communication brief. A school sponsor might need to text a student at an event to keep track of them and let them know of places and times, and a teacher might communicate briefly and infrequently with a student by phone to provide assistance with a homework problem. But if you want to email a student, use the school email system so the message is available for inspection. If you want to use social networking features with a class, use a system like Edmodo, which limits interactions and gives parents access.

Text and instant messaging are limited to school activity logistics between a sponsor and participating students OR when staff members are using school-sponsored systems for instruction which give full access to both administrators and parents/guardians. It is best to keep texts and instant messages to a minimum. School Board Policy ECC and also School Board Policy FIHH apply here.