Teachers can be friendly with their students, but they can't be their friends, at least when it comes to social networks such as Facebook. State Governor Jay Nixon has signed Senate Bill 54, which goes into effect on August 28, 2011 in the state of Missouri. In other words, later this month it will be illegal for students and teachers to be friends online, according to KSPR.
Senate Bill 54 is dubbed the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, and 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. The Bill strengthens rules against schools that fail to report sexual abuse of students by employees, but at the same time it also adds other requirements, such as the social networking component.
The new law bans direct social networking contact between teachers and students in the hopes of setting more distinct boundaries on the relationships between the two. Section 162.069 of the bill explains the social networking part in a bit more detail:
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.
This implies that 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.
It's not clear how Missouri plans to enforce the law, but it's quite possible social networks will be asked to do a little work themselves. Will the state be allowed access to Facebook accounts, personal computers, or ISP records to see who is friending whom?
Personally, I think it's a little bit ridiculous as I've seen multiple student-teacher friendships work out just fine, even before social networks ever existed. Then again, I don't live in Missouri.