Greenville County Schools to send text alerts to parents on school delays, closings

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Parents who are tired of waking up early to check media lists for school delays and closures can rejoice — Greenville County Schools will now send text alerts.

The district has never sent text alerts or early morning robocalls, partly because of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) — legislation enacted by the Federal Communications Commission in 1991 that restricts telemarketing communications to safeguard consumer privacy.

The restriction applies to some governmental agencies, including school districts, but in 2016 the FCC released an order stating school districts could “lawfully make robocalls and send automated texts” for an emergency purpose.

Beth Brotherton, spokesperson for Greenville County Schools, said along with the TCPA, sending a text alert in years past was a hassle because various phone companies charged for text messages.

Brotherton said the district started looking into available options when it discovered the Twitter-to-text alert system it was using was unreliable.

“Though we have been using a text message system called @gcsalerts through Twitter, that system has been less than reliable and is dependent on parents opting in and having push notifications set properly on their phone,” Brotherton said in a statement on Dec. 3.

The district’s legal team reviewed the FCC’s 2016 statement and made the decision to start sending text alerts in December.

Parents whose primary home phone number with the district can receive text messages will get the alerts automatically, but parents who have a landline or other non-text-receiving phone listed will need to fill out a form and return it to their school’s front office.

The form can be found on the Greenville County Schools website.

“We will continue to use @gcsalerts as a communication redundancy,” Brotherton said in the statement. “As always, the GCS website, social media platforms, and local media will be used to help disseminate emergency messages.”

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