The state of Missouri has passed a law to prevent teachers from friending students on social media sites.
Senate Bill 54, also known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, aims to fight inappropriate contact between students and teachers, including protecting children from sexual misconduct by their educators. It is named after a Missouri public school student who was repeatedly molested by a teacher several decades ago.
This bill explicitly mentions that teachers cannot have private conversations with students over the internet, including text messaging.
Teachers will still be able to have a Facebook Page for interacting with students on a slightly more personal level, as long it’s still work-related. It’s the actual friending, messaging, and whatever other direct connection you can make on a social network that will not be allowed.
The actual section of the law:
SECTION 162.069 – By January 1, 2012, every school district must develop a written policy concerning teacher-student communication and employee-student communications. Each policy must include appropriate oral and nonverbal personal communication, which may be combined with sexual harassment policies, and appropriate use of electronic media as described in the act, including social networking sites. Teachers cannot establish, maintain, or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and the child’s legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian. Teachers also cannot have a nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student. Former student is defined as any person who was at one time a student at the school at which the teacher is employed and who is eighteen years of age or less and who has not graduated.
This seems to be a very drastic measure to control a few misbehaving adults, who will probably still find other ways to misbehave. It also prevents teachers from friending ex-students until they turn 18 (wouldn’t those teenage years the ones students could use a strong adult presence amongst their friends?).
The Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) has filled a lawsuit to fight this law, stating it is unconstitutional and confusing. I’d like to hear both sides of the story here:
1) As a parent, does this law make sense? Would it protect children from abuse?
2) As an educator, would you be ok with the conditions set in this law?
UPDATE – Here are some more links on this story: