A new bill has been filed to be addressed in the coming session; a bill that would serve as a reminder that inappropriate behavior between educators and the students they are responsible for has consequences.

A new bill has been filed to be addressed in the coming session; a bill that would serve as a reminder that inappropriate behavior between educators and the students they are responsible for has consequences.

In Senate Bill 45, state Sen. Ron Sharp filed a measure that would require state school districts to place a Code of Principles into their personnel policy manuals by the 2020-2021 school year.

“Information to be included would be the proper use of both school and personally-owned technology (phones, computers, etc.) to contact students including texts and social media,” Sharp said. “There’s a thin line between professional and personal relationships with teachers and students — which can lead to legal and ethical issues for teachers.”

And, Sharp said the legislation requests the school district to include the criminal and potential civil consequences for violation.

Sharp said the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) has announced that more than 2,900 emergency certified teachers are now in Oklahoma classrooms.

“With the numbers of emergency and alternative certified teachers in our classrooms this should be discussed,” he said. “Most of these teachers have not received the training and professional methods courses of certified professional teachers.”

Also, all other school personnel are to have this information provided to them, he said.

“Less than one percent of our schools have a problem with its personnel improper interaction with students,” Sharp said. “This is well below other professions; however, any such actions must be addressed — especially with the increase of uncertified staff.”

Sharp said they have not been exposed to the problems of interacting with children at differing ages living in a social media world.

Relationships can be formed on social media without understanding the boundaries, he said.

“Children today lack the adult supervision we had as youth,” he said. “And, the movies, video games and TV have not provided our children and adults the proper compass that provides self control.”

However, this (code of principles) should be a reminder of that our society does not condone this behavior and there are consequences, he said.

“There are parents who assume their child would be better taking virtual online courses to avoid bullying and predators,” Sharp said. “Unfortunately, cyber bullying and predators are taunting and luring our children; there is no escaping the problems.”

Children are not going to sit all day in front of a computer for coursework and not be attracted to social media, he said.

“This legislation is designed to deter a problem, recognizing it cannot stop the problem,” he said. “Only parents can really stop the problem by monitoring their children's social media web search and contacts.”

Sharp said he's been criticized for trying to address this issue.

“Some are insulted at the prospect of this additional information being provided to personnel, but this is no different than other reminders or trainings we have in our society,” he said.

In place

Sharp said several school superintendents within Senate District 17 have related they have already placed these codes in their personnel handbooks — or already planned to do so.

SB 45 provides considerable discretion to each school district on how it wishes to create this Code of Principles, and to the disciplinary procedures for its violation.

Past attempt

A similar bill was introduced last year, Sharp said, however, it was considered a fiscal liability since an in-service program was required under that legislative proposal.

The OSDE did not want to provide this in service due to its cost, he said.

(OSDE) lobbied against the bill filed last year, Sharp said.

“The OSDE acknowledged that such an in-service could provide a need, since there are a number of teachers in Oklahoma classrooms that have not received teaching methods and classroom management training.”

SB 45 will not be a fiscal liability to the OSDE, nor to the school districts, since all districts provide a personnel manual to its personnel, he said.

SB 45 goes before the Senate Feb. 4.

Watch for updates.