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. Marley

    @Joey:
    Do you honestly believe the same would hold true with a graduating class of 1200?
    The times have changed, and public education has, too. Time for you to realize this isn't the 50's anymore.

    August 1, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Curious

    Young teacher...the subject...of schoolgirl fantasies...

    August 1, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ Marley:
    I realize everything that has happened, when, and why.
    However, I still meet motivated, well educated young people who attend public as well as private schools.
    Some unusually gifted high-school students have studied privately with me in recent years.
    I agree only that society has changed.

    August 1, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. leeintulsa

    Just another example of someone ruining it for everyone.. Like no backpacks in convenient stores.. And no shorts allowed in court..

    August 1, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ Marley:
    Sonny, sometimes, with my walker and all, it takes me a while to process what is said to me. Sometimes I just don't hear, but even with my microphone hearing aid all set up it's a challenge. I didn't realize immediately that you might have thought I was graduated from that fine public high school during the 1950s.
    No, it was all over by then–our educational system, I mean.
    My high-school class of thirty high achievers was graduated in the year 1913.

    August 1, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fernace

    Like so many well meaning laws these days, this law basically takes the "guilty until proven innocent" stance! 1 person committed an atrocity & all of society is made to pay for it! I highly doubt this will deter a real predator, whos whole focus is to get away with his/her deplorable acts! All it does is make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to use these sites! Parents are the stopgap between a predator & a child meeting on public computer site! My take, as a childcare professional, is that nothing is really private in your childs life until the age of 18! Until that age a parents rules are law, & parents reserve the right to snoop, if it's a question of your kids safety! It may not be the 50's anymore, but that doesn't mean some of the methods used by parents of that ers are now outdated! Being in control of your household & childrens safety is Never out of date!!

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

    Sorry, that should read"era"! Thanks!!

    August 1, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tom Hagen

    @Joey: You just want your false prophet Godfather and his minions to get their greasy hands on every little boy and girl's privates, so you act like everything is wonderful and it let's people's defenses down. You go suck off the Pope if you like it so much. People are getting educated to your ways.. The only way out for you is death.. *spit* F U and your family.

    August 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Parent

    No teacher should be Myspacing or Facebooking their students. What is wrong with you people? They shouldn't be getting girls drunk while chaperoning on spring break.. Wow.. You do eat your children here. I pray our creator handles business... You're all disgusting.

    August 1, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Madame Royale

    @JIF:

    You are too much!

    August 1, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Madame Royale

    @Curious:

    Nice nod to the Police.

    @Hagen:

    Down, boy!

    August 1, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Madame Royale

    @Parent:

    I am disgusting....why?

    August 1, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ Madame Royale:
    Seriously: please explain how I am too much.
    I'm honestly putting out my POV.
    I can't find anything wrong with it.

    August 1, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ Tom Hagen:
    Hi, guy. It's nice to see you again, too.
    My wife and Sheryl both send you their love.

    August 1, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom Hagen

      @Joey: I'm not your Hagen troll, but I was watching the Godfather and figured out you were calling your troll that. Either way the Godfather is a dumb boring movie about child mol esti ng catholics.. Which explains why you stick up for peso teachers.. You'd rather play clean up after the fact and turn them to Jesus.. lol

      August 1, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom Hagen

      Correction: P E D O teachers.. Oh and yeah *spit* F U and your family.

      August 1, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Hagen–got any fudge today?

    August 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom Hagen

      @Joey: Gee imagine that.. The p e d o supporter wants some fudge.. I notice you're not fond of the pink..

      August 1, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
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