Providing safe, secure channels for teacher, student communication

February 2015

Unfortunately, inappropriate conduct between teachers and students is on the rise. According to The Washington Post, there were 781 reported cases of teachers or other school employees accused or convicted of sexual relationships with underage students in 2014 alone, an average of 15 cases per week. If that is not shocking enough, consider these news reports from just the first month of 2015:

Former Chief of Staff at the US Department of Education Terry Abbott points to recent technological developments that seem to be related to the increase in cases in the past decade, "two things have become popular and had a massive effect on the prevalence of sexual misconduct in schools: social media and text messaging." The number of students with their own cell phones is nearly 80 percent. According to Abbot, 36 percent of those accused of inappropriate relationships with students used some social media avenue to start and/or maintain the relationship.

The existence of apps such as Kik and SnapChat promise a level of privacy that is actually unfounded. Even though the images and messages are supposed to disappear after viewing, screenshots of inappropriate images are common and messages are retained on the services' servers. Still these platforms in addition to more common websites like Facebook and Twitter allow teachers and students to connect away from the classroom, outside of official school communication channels, and out of sight of parents.

The truth is, that for school districts, encouraging social media is a double edged sword. Social media has well documented benefits in the classroom to encourage discussion, foster communication, deepen learning and create connections. At the same time, it is the very avenue that undetected classroom predators are exploiting to develop sexual relationships with students out of sight of school administrators and parents.

The question becomes, "How can school districts encourage appropriate use of social media and digital learning while preventing students and teachers from entering into inappropriate relationships?" New products such as apps developed by SchoolInfoApp bridge this gap and minimize the dangers inherent in allowing social media use in the classroom.

In addition to push notifications, district wide social media management, and language translation, SchoolInfoApp creates apps for schools that provide teachers a method to safely and instantly connect with parents and students. SchoolInfoApp’s Teacher Notifications feature provides approved staff with a method to send classroom reminders, project updates, homework assignments and more through this closed system. Unlike third-party messaging programs, social media, email and text messaging, all teachers' messages are saved in the system and instantly viewable by school administrators. In addition, communication is one-way which does not open the classroom message up to a two-way conversation between student and teacher.

Excellent school districts have a genuine interest in open communication between students, parents and staff, but at the same time have a serious obligation to provide a safe learning environment for all students. SchoolInfoApp's custom creation allows for schools and districts to enhance their digital learning opportunities for students while at the same time providing a safe, supervised environment.