In a recent post, I fleshed out what we believe should be in a comprehensive sexting policy. I wanted to also mention that it is very important that schools take note and knowledge of students’ due process rights, and ensure that their response action plans do not overstep those personal rights. Here’s what I suggest as it relates to the policy implementation process.
For starters, the administration will have to clearly identify how the policy in place acknowledges and involves the possibility of sexting and the various issues that are implicated – the possession and/or use of cell phones, search and seizure issues, disciplinary options, child pornography statutes, and so forth. Once this is complete, the school board will need to obtain feedback from educational technology personnel, law enforcement, and the district’s legal counsel to cover all necessary groundwork, facets, contingencies, and to comply with the law and the student’s civil protections.
For example, a school might implement a cell phone policy that reminds students about administrator rights to confiscate and search through the contents of student-owned devices based on reasonable suspicion that a school rule violation has occurred. This must then be introduced and explained both to students and to parents, which can occur through assemblies and community meetings. We should never assume that just because we write a policy – and send it home in discipline manuals that parents and students both have to sign – that they actually read it.
In addition, schools may hold an in-service workshop – to include the school board, the superintendent, key administrative figureheads, local law enforcement, and school district attorneys – to educate and then discuss different scenarios that might arise and warrant policy application as part of the formal response. All of this will likely cost a lot of time and resources, but it seems essential as part of a proactive approach to the problem. It could save so much more time and resources by helping to prevent or deter a sexting incident, or – at the very least – by imbuing the school’s response with efficiency, speed, and productivity.