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Well, I'm an Idiot
Old 02-15-2018, 07:39 PM
 
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Principal called me in today to informally reprimand me (read: no formal consequences, just something to take notice of). It was in regards to an email I'd sent her regarding grave concerns I had about a student.

The email I'd sent was not insubordinate nor was the intention unprofessional. My wording, apparently, came across as quite harsh. I know my weaknesses and take full responsibility for that.

Principal told me it was concerning because our emails are a matter of public record. I've always known emails can be subpoenaed in court and that IT has access to all of them, even if deleted. Although I regret the tone, I stand by what I wrote.

What I didn't realize was that parents can request transcripts of any emails from the district. Any parents. So any parent could request a copy of any email I've ever sent from my work email. I'm frustrated because I send professional, inter-staff emails all the time that I wouldn't ever want parents to see. (For example - "Such and such a child disclosed x,y, and z to me. I took x action. Would you please follow up?" to the school counselor.)

In the future, all such concerns are to be brought to the principal in person. Now I know, so I won't make that mistake again.

I've been with the district for 2.5 years now. Why didn't I know? How could I have missed that part? I read all the handbooks religiously. I'm really angry at myself right now.


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They dropped the ball
Old 02-15-2018, 08:32 PM
 
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We have been told to never mention a student's name in an email. We might do an initial. Your district probably monitors your emails. They can monitor every site you visit too.

Since it was informal, don't worry about it. However, always keep it positive when discussing parents, students, or teachers. Even with colleagues, you trust. People can surprise you. Go with the thought that anything you utter at work will be all over the school.

Even when you want to communicate issues with the counselor or principal find the right words so that you seem professional, not harsh. Listen to their words and copy them.
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Old 02-15-2018, 08:40 PM
 
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Well, I don't know what state you're in, but I know that in my state our open records laws would most likely protect most of what you wrote in an e-mail. While a member of the public (parents, journalists, etc.) can request records, more than likely any personal information regarding a student would be redacted. A lawsuit would be a different matter, of course. But it's not like Parent Z can request emails about Parent Y's child.

I know about this because before I became a teacher, I was a journalist. I requested records all the time, but anything personal about students was blacked out or the request flatly denied. There are limits.
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Idiot
Old 02-15-2018, 09:17 PM
 
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I had no idea!!! I wish someone had told me that years ago. I sent some inflammatory emails in my time. (Not to parents)
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Old 02-16-2018, 06:33 AM
 
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As a sub, I sometimes send teachers emails if there's something important I've forgotten to write in my note or if I've been unable to write one. I used to include student names, but one teacher nicely pointed out I shouldn't do that. Instead, I've started using initials or symbols like B##### R###.

I've never had anyone say a word after I started doing that, but a teacher sent me an email recently in which he mentioned a student by name, first and last. I didn't correct him, but in my response, I went out of my way not to write it.

Please don't beat yourself up over this. It was an honest mistake. When I was a regular teacher, we were given many rules to follow, but I don't ever remember hearing anything about this. As a sub, the district and/or the private staffing agency gives us a long list of guidelines, but this one has never come up. It has also never come up in any online training I've had to do.

You might find it interesting to know that if school districts don't want names mentioned in electronic communications, Aesop never got the message! Subs are able to leave feedback, and two of the categories are "students who were absent" and "terrific helpers." There is absolutely nothing there about not writing student names. Although I never use this Aesop feature, I have never had a district tell us to use it or not to use it.

Shame on your principal! If your district is concerned about this, they should have done a much better job communicating their concerns to everyone.


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Old 02-16-2018, 06:45 AM
 
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I’d bet most of the teachers in your district aren’t aware about their school emails. The district is responsible for making sure teachers are aware and administrators should definitely review that at the first staff meeting at the beginning of every school year.

You might consider not sending certain information in email and just send an email requesting a face to face meeting with the counselor or principal over an important or sensitive matter concerning a student.

Don’t let your error frazzle you. Teachers are human and make mistakes.
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Old 02-16-2018, 08:29 AM
 
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We have to have a confidentiality statement in our signature block. We arenít supposed to use names in subject lines, but as far as I understand, our emails are private and protected. I will have to go read that statement as it has been a couple years since I paid it any attention.

You canít know what you have not been told.
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Old 02-16-2018, 10:09 AM
 
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Also, depending on your state, your personal phone can be included in the record if you turn it on at school.

We are forbidden to bring our phones to any parent meetings and can only use them when there are no students in the area.
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Old 02-16-2018, 11:17 AM
 
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I've been retired for several years now, but not naming names in emails was a policy when I was teaching. That said, I can understand how newer teachers may not be aware. There is so much to consider and learn!

Please, just take in the new information and move forward. Bless you for being a teacher!
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Sounds like something that should be covered
Old 02-16-2018, 11:24 AM
 
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In orientation.

I don't know what is covered in orientation at your district, but in mine, it's just berating us with the nonsensical, pie-in-the sky philosophy and reiteration of mutually-exclusive (differentiation/inclusion AND high expectations) pedagogical expectations of the day and NOTHING practical or concrete.


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Try Not To Worry.
Old 02-16-2018, 11:58 PM
 
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I hear you. Sometimes I put my foot in my mouth. Advice is always easier to give, but at least you communicated clearly and said what you wanted. You speak your mind. Sometimes we must say what needs to be said regardless of how popular it is or isn't. I sub and wrote a note to a teacher. His or her classroom was very difficult, but this time I was more honest in my letter. I don't intend to offend by any means, but I felt I had to be more direct so the teacher will know what I am talking about. Tomorrow is a new day.
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If it makes you feel any better,
Old 02-17-2018, 05:28 PM
 
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I have taught most of my life and never heard of any such rule. Also, I always put the kid's name in the memo part so I can find it easier! Yikes! I am pretty careful though to only put facts in the email.
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No names
Old 02-18-2018, 11:00 AM
 
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We are not allowed to use names of students in emails. We can use initials. I will use the first name if it's something minor, or something complimentary (so and so did a great job today....).

It protects us all to be discrete, but in reality in our district, very few parents are requesting copies of emails. Admin is always talking about "being sued" but it still is a rare thing here. Like one other poster said, try to move forward, be careful, but at the same time try not to get too paranoid about this stuff.
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