Missouri law bans some teacher-student contact on Facebook, other sites
A new Missouri law makes it a crime for teachers and students to contact each other privately via social networking sites.
August 1st, 2011
02:54 PM ET

Missouri law bans some teacher-student contact on Facebook, other sites

A new law in Missouri that makes it illegal for teachers to privately contact current or former students on Facebook and other social networking sites is not a friend of education, teaching professionals told CNN on Monday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jane Cunningham and signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon, is set to take effect August 28, about two weeks after the school year has started for the majority of Missouri schools.

Cunningham was quick to point out Monday that despite what was being circulated on the Web about the law it didn't stop teachers from talking to students online.

"The law doesn't prohibit social media contact," Cunningham told CNN. "If anybody says it does then they have not read the law," she said. "It just stops exclusivity, we just want those conversations to be available to the parents and school districts,” Cunningham said.

So while social networking sites would be OK - as long as the communication was public - conversations that take place, say, in Facebook's built-in e-mail feature or Twitter's direct messaging feature may be unlawful.

When the bill was signed into law last month Cunningham said the measure was needed to make sure schools were aware of sexual misconduct by potential hires and employees.

The controversial section of the law says teachers “cannot have a non-work-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student.”

Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, said his chapter is investigating whether that portion of the law violates the First Amendment rights of teachers.

“The real danger of the law is that it will chill teachers in engaging in communication not only with students but silence them and prevent them from using the Internet and social networking sites for communicating their personal beliefs about anything really, not just school matters.”

Rothert said the law appears to curtail freedom of speech, “effectively taking them (teachers) out from using social networking for political discussions or anything else.”

The law will be called the “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act,” in honor of Amy Hestir, a then-13-year-old who was sexually assaulted by her teacher. The law will also govern hiring referrals for teaching candidates as a way to record sexual misconduct by educators and ensure they don’t hop from district to district.

Vicki Sauter, professor of information systems at the University of Missouri—St. Louis, and a technology advocate who runs social networking workshops for students, said the law is misguided.

“If we’re going to get through to the kids, my philosophy is that you have to get on their level and talk to them their way,” she said. “Their way these days is electronically. What this (law) is doing is taking away a tool that a teacher can use to communicate with their students.”

Sauter said that she understood the law’s intentions though. “The other side of it of course is that there are bad people (predators) out there who are going to do bad things.”

“There are social media sites like LinkedIn where a student may want to put together a page for their career and get advice from a teacher. With this law they can’t do that, so I think it’s short sighted,” she said.

Todd Fuller, a spokesman for the Missouri  State Teachers Association, said the law is a beneficial but creates "some gray areas regarding teacher-student communication and we think it’s going to be clarified within local districts."

He said the onus is on teachers to make sure they are in compliance with the new law. "We have told teachers they need to talk to their specific districts and let them know if they find potential problems," Fuller said.

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Filed under: Facebook • Missouri • Technology • Twitter • U.S.
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Madame Royale

    @JIF

    Your 6:59 post.
    It made me laugh.
    Thanks for that; I'm having kind of an off day.

    August 1, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ Tom Hagen:
    I wrote you a long explanation of who "Hagen" is in Wagner's Ring cycle, and why I named my troll that.
    It had nothing to do with THE GODFATHER, the Church, or anything that you thought I meant.
    I'm sorry that you cannot see the value of the kind of close interaction with teachers that I had as a child. It made my success possible.

    August 1, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Tom Hagen:
    The long explanation I wrote to you was rejected by CNN.
    You don't stop jabbing at me, so I'm still not sure you're not my troll Hagen.
    Anyway, you did not understand what I said and why I said it.

    August 1, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. J

    The law states any non-work related website that "ALLOWS" exclusive contact. It says nothing about "ENGAGED" contact. Herego, just having a former student who is your friend will violate that law.

    August 1, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brandi

    I think this is a disgrace to what America likes to call "FREEDOM"! I could understand trying to rensure the saftey of current students but if you are a former sudent of a teacher over the age of 18 it shouldn't matter! America we are loosing our rights. Democrats at work...TAKING AWAY AMERICAS FREEDOM!!!

    August 1, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • startrekker_410

      The sponsor of the bill is a Republican – the same one who wanted to do away with Missouri's child labor laws. The governor is a Democrat. Looks like both parties, not just the Dems.

      August 2, 2011 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jazzzzzzzz

    A Colorado Springs police officer charged with se-ually assaulting six children pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 10 counts of child po-nography charges related to DVDs that were found in his house.
    oshua Carrier, 30, was arraigned during a brief hearing before 4th Judicial District Judge David A. Gilbert.

    The seually explicit material – found on DVDs in Carrier’s Colorado Springs home – is what sparked an investigation that ultimately led police to accuse Carrier, a former school resource officer, of inappropriately touching children, authorities said.

    A preliminary hearing on the 78 seual assault counts, all related to six children, was postponed until Sept. 15 after prosecutors said in court they intend to file more charges based on accounts from other children who have stepped forward.

    The judge set a July 26 hearing for any additional charges against Carrier, should prosecutors pursue them.

    Carrier is on unpaid leave and being held at the El Paso County jail on a $500,000 bond. Authorities launched a probe into his conduct at Horace Mann Middle School in School District 11 last May after announcing that detectives found child po@nography in his bedroom during a search of his home.

    Police began investigating after Air Force investigators told them that Carrier’s name came up during an investigation into online p@-rn trafficking.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      please read and be aware of the surroundings of your children's schools

      August 1, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. rando1000

    for the record, the senator sponsoring the bill, Jane Cunningham, is a republican, not a democrat. it's not "democrats" eroding this particular right. for the record, I'm completely against this law, and am a strong democrat.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I am concerned that it intrudes into our freedom.
    A FORMER student? Absurd!

    August 1, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    BTW, ADDENDUM:
    It doesn't matter what you are.
    I'm a Republican. I am opposed to this bill.
    The person above was a Democrat opposed to it.
    The bill is an intrusion into some Americans' personal liberty.
    It's unrelated to parties.

    August 1, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cody

    I feel that someone should elaborate on "former students." I am 20 years old and am friends with my spanish teacher from highschool. In highschool he helped me through day to day problems, always made sure myself and my friends would make up after arguments, and the administration who constantly questioned his teaching methods and why the students could relate to him and trusted him enough to go talk to him when they had a problem. He treated his students like he had known them forever and it was like that since day one. He is no longer a teacher at the school that I attended and I am interested how enforcers of this new law would look at a "former students" relationship with his friend who was a former teacher and always a friend before an authority figure.

    August 1, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vintage

      I'm thinking "former" means students who are still in high school, have a class with a teacher one year, but not the next, for example.

      August 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ajd041

    I didn't read all of the comments but if that's basically all of the law then its illegal for parents who are teachers who have taught their children in their classes before to communicate privately through FB. If that's true something needs to be done about it

    August 1, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Blown Away

    I can't believe this law will pass a U.S. Supreme Court test. Has it passed the Missouri Supreme Court?

    August 2, 2011 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. Avser Bastian

    GOVERNMENT "AFTERLIFE" FLASH MOB OR REAL SHOOTING IN UTOYA, NORWAY !!? stateofterror.blogspot.com/ or stateofterror.wordpress.com/ TEARS OF SORROW AND PAIN ON FACES OF MOURNERS OR TEAR GAS AND THEATER/HYPOCRISY ON FACES OF MULTICULTURALISM MANIACS !!? NORWEGIAN OSLO POLICE or COMMUNIST/LIBERAL CRIMINALS IN BLUE UNIFORMS WHO WERE PREPARING FOR TERROR AGAINST NORWAY ALREADY HALF DECADE AHEAD !!? No doubt about bombing in Oslo, but what about shooting in Utoya which was no different from the one in Arizona !!!? WILL THERE BE OBAMINATOR MORALES'S APOCALYPSE NOW OR TOTAL WAR AGAINST NEW WORLD ORDER(multiculturalism) !!? STOLTENBERG = BREIVIK(90 minutes vs 30 and for government vehicles or police even 20 minutes the most) !!!

    DICTATOR OBAMA = STALIN = BUSH or USA = SOVIET UNION http://avsecbostjan.blogspot.com/ or http://avsecbostjan.wordpress.com/

    COMMUNISM(Slowenien/Slovenia) IN CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE TODAY(2011) !!! http://sloveniatoday.blogspot.com or http://easterneuropetoday.wordpress.com/

    August 2, 2011 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
  14. Abortion survivor

    Teachers don't like talking about me anyway.

    August 2, 2011 at 3:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. Andreas Moser

    Facebook just banned ME completely by deleting my profile without warning or reason: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/life-after-facebook/

    August 2, 2011 at 5:50 am | Report abuse |
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