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Is Your K-12 School Sending Calls Illegally?

Photo of a young woman in a blue shirt looking surprised and angry while talking on a mobile phone with a out of focus background of large windows and a person's head
Category - Education
by Lisa Eifert on April 13th, 2017

A child doesn’t report to school in the morning but wasn’t called in as absent. You don’t have a home number, and you lack explicit consent to call the the parent’s mobile phone to check in. While in most cases the scenario above is likely the result of an oversight, in rare cases the absence may be due to an emergent or emergency situation. So what do you do?

This is just one example of the many types of communications quandaries faced by school districts everyday. And the reality is that understanding the rules and adopting best practices based upon them can not only offer clarity in in minor cases, but can also be be vital to keeping members of your community safe.

About TCPA

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was designed to spare recipients from unwanted “nuisance” calls. The arrival of mobile on the scene and a resulting shift away from land lines clouded the issue: Do the same rules apply to both? And are schools held to the same standards as other organizations?

The answer, in short, is no. And with good reason: Most communications from schools to constituents are anything but of a nuisance variety. In fact, in addition to emergency situations, everything from reminders about upcoming conferences to notifications about school events and activities offer great value to students and their families while keeping school operations moving forward in the most efficient, effective way.

In acknowledgement of this, the FCC has updated TCPA rules to clarify which types of calls and text messages are acceptable and which aren’t. Its conclusion? If the content of the message is “closely related” to the mission of your school and if the parent has given “prior content,” automated calls and text are within bounds.

Do YOU Understand the Rules?

Of course, this is subjective and so somewhat tricky territory, which is why the FCC has also issued examples of what qualifies as “closely related,” as well as suggestions for best practices, including making sure schools are aware of the full spectrum of the types of communications allowed, along with you making sure the members of your community do, as well.

Managing a K-12 school system is a juggling act to begin with. Factor in questions about TCPA and the job can get immeasurably harder. But it doesn’t have to be that way.