ISTA: Students and teachers should never exchange cell phone numbers

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 22, 2016) - After yet another disturbing case of child solicitation in an Indiana school, one organization is urging teachers and districts to be cautious of how they're communicating with students.

A former Zionsville Middle School teacher was arrested for allegedly sexting a young student. Court records show the communication happened via text message.

Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith says teachers are encouraged to not exchange cell phone numbers with students.

“We don’t think there is ever an instance where a teacher needs a students cell phone number or a student needs a teachers cell phone number," Meredith said.

There are no statewide guidelines for teachers when it comes to appropriate communication with students and parents. Meredith said it's up to each school district to decide and enforce their rules. She says they encourage teachers to follow their district guidelines, but still recommend no communication outside school between teacher and student.

“There really is a careful line that you cannot cross and you have to make sure the student understands that as well." said Meredith.

Social media has played a role in some recent cases of inappropriate communication. Former Park Tudor coach, Kyle Cox, was arrested for allegedly sending inappropriate pictures via Snapchat and Instagram.

“Technology, social media, all of that, has really been a whole new area for school corporations in terms of creating policy," Meredith said.

All technology isn't bad when it comes to ways to communicate. Meredith said many districts are resorting to apps like Remind 101. It's a tool for teachers to communicate to both students and parents about events and assignments. Apps like this are recommended by ISTA because there's clear documentation and a history of conversation.

“You actually enter the information through the app, the student receives the information, but you never know what the students number is," Meredith explained. She added,“those are safe ways and then there’s a tracking of every communication that happens.”

House Bill 1005 was signed into law last month, asking for a study to determine "ways to reduce school sexual misconduct violations and methods of improving the reporting requirements of sexual misconduct violations in schools."