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TCPA and Schools: What You Need to Know

Category - Education
by Lisa Eifert on September 12th, 2016

If you’re currently using or considering switching to an automated messaging system for communicating with the members of your school community, you’re likely already aware of the many benefits of being able to send both routine and emergency messages within mere minutes. However, you may also have concerns about the rules and regulations involved — specifically pertaining to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Let’s take a closer look at TCPA, along with what it means for your school communication practices.  

The 411 on TCPA

Enacted by Congress in 1991 and administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), TCPA restricts the use of marketing calls, automatic telephone dialing systems and pre-recorded voice messages to mobile phones without prior express consent. The only exemption, according to the act? Calls for “emergency purposes.”

TCPA does apply to both public and private schools with penalties of up to $500 per violation. Willful and knowing violations, meanwhile, can be tripled to up to $1,500. Think this means the use of an automated communication system is out of the question for your school? Think again. A recent TCPA ruling means this technology remains very much within your reach.

Key Clarifications Regarding TCPA and Schools

TCPA was created to spare recipients from unwanted nuisance calls. However, do the messages sent from your school really fall into this category? Probably not. In fact, it’s the opposite: Open lines of communication are more critical than ever in today’s schools. Messages from schools—particularly those delivered in a way which maximizes efficiency and minimizes wasted time—are both useful and wanted.

Because of this, recent FCC updates clarify the matter of “prior consent”—specifically as it pertains to the education sector. Whereas in the past schools needed to obtain additional “explicit consent” for each type of message, a TCPA ruling has since clarified that as long as your constituents have provided their phone numbers, calls and texts can be made to mobile phones for purposes which are “closely related’ to a school’s mission. Falling under this heading? All activities with educational components, such as general school activities and teacher conferences. Outside the scope of “closely related,’ meanwhile? Activities and events which lack an educational aspect and/or association with official school activities.

Additionally, the FCC’s update of TCPA also clarifies the concept of “emergency purpose” as it applies to schools: In its essence, the phrase refers to any and all situations which affect the health and safety of your community, including weather conditions; threats and or imminent danger due to everything from fires to dangerous people; and unexpected absences.

One recommended way to ensure that schools and community members are on the same page? By informing constituents about the expected range of calls and messages they’ll be receiving under the latest rules and regulations. Additionally, enlisting the services of a reputable automated messaging system such as One Call Now allows recipients to have say into how and when notifications are received. The result? Messages which are not only heard, but also serve your community and its members in the most beneficial way.