Teachers in Missouri will have less private contact with their students over Facebook this school year, as a new state law limits their social networking contact with their pupils.
How the Law Originated
Under the new law, teachers will be forbidden from using the term “friend” with students on Facebook, though they can still form public page or groups in order to provide homework assignments or share resources. The new law was dubbed the “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act,” inspired by a Missouri student who was molested and assaulted by a junior high school teacher.
The state-wide law for student-teacher standards becomes effective Aug. 28, with districts required to write their policy by the end of 2011. Officials say enforcement will start in January of next year.
The new mandate comes in response to an Associated Press investigation that discovered 87 Missouri teachers had seen their licenses taken away between 2001 and 2005 due to sexual misconduct. In some of these cases, authorities say there was an exchange of explicit online messages with students.
Teachers Respond, Upset with Law
With the new law facing them this coming school year, a large number of Missouri teachers are giving the ruling an ‘F’ grade, saying it will decrease their ability to properly converse with students, be it regarding grades or personal problems.
As the law states, teachers are prohibited from engaging in “exclusive access” online with current students or former students who are still minors, meaning any contact on Facebook or other social networking sites is required to be conducted in public as opposed to private messages.
Other provisions in the law will monitor teachers accused of sexual misconduct, such as instituting annual criminal background checks and requiring districts to share information regarding teachers who are dismissed or resign in sex-abuse cases.
According to the law’s author, State Sen. Jane Cunningham, the law will help in lessening the chances of teachers and students forming a private relationship, relationships that can sometimes lead to cases of sexual abuse. Cunningham noted in interviews with the media that “If you are a teacher that’s not doing anything wrong, you’ll want parents to see that communication.”
So, a wise move by Missouri officials to help prevent potential sexual abuse or a case of big brother (the state in this case) encroaching on the education system?
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