Law repealed: teachers can be Facebook friends with students

Law repealed: teachers can be Facebook friends with students

Summary: State Governor Jay Nixon has repealed a law that would have banned teachers and students from being friends on Facebook.

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The Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) has finally won its war against a new law regarding social networking with students. State Governor Jay Nixon has repealed the recently passed law and has signed Senate Bill 1 (PDF). In a signing statement, Nixon wrote that SB1 "is not perfect, but the alternative of educators having to conform to the unreasonable restrictions of the Senate Committee Substitute of Senate Bill No. 54 is a far worse result."

Last month, the Missouri House passed the new bill in a vote of 139 to 2 after the Senate passed the new bill unanimously. SB1 requires every school district to have a written policy concerning employee-student communication by March 1, 2012, but does not specify what the policy should include.

Three months ago, Nixon signed Senate Bill 54, which was supposed to go into effect on August 28, 2011 in the state of Missouri. It included many other provisions that MSTA supported, and which remain untouched by this change.

The bill, 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.

Among other things, it was meant to ban direct social networking contact between teachers and students in the hopes of setting more distinct boundaries on the relationships between the two. The law said teachers would 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 was to be banned.

The law was written broadly enough to prohibit teachers from communicating privately with students over the Internet, inhibiting educators' ability to converse with students via text messaging and social networks. As I outlined two months ago, teachers and students couldn't be Facebook friends, since the communication had to be visible to both the district and parents.

Many teachers and administrators interpreted this to mean that teachers would be forbidden to contact students via Facebook or text message, and that they could also not use educational products such as Moodle. Furthermore, many teachers feared they would be penalized for being friends with their own children on Facebook.

Now that SB1 has replaced SB54, teachers no longer need to worry about communicating with students via social networks.

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Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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15 comments
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  • A bad idea

    teachers friending students is just a bad, bad idea. Just like i wont friend anyone that i work with, unless i have had a friendship outside of the work place. It wont end well.
    tiderulz
    • RE: Law repealed: teachers can be Facebook friends with students

      @tiderulz Might be a bad idea for elementary age students, but not for HS and/or college-age students. IM's, tweets, etc are a good way to communicate. Not everyone is tied to a cell phone 24/7.
      Starman35
    • RE: Law repealed: teachers can be Facebook friends with students

      @tiderulz

      ...? what if your friend from work that you have a friendship outside the workplace, friends your boss with their facebook account?
      UrNotPayingAttention
  • Teachers need guidelines

    @Starman - Elementary students on FB? Tweets, blogs and other open (non-private) communications seem to be safer for all involved.
    Wirekat
  • Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    If I was in that state then I would either have direct access to everything that went back and forth on FB with my kid's teachers or the teacher would be denied access to my kid's account. I don't know what kind of drugs the MSTA is on but I hope the law is pulled at the first wrong contact.
    dave01234
  • You can't regulate everything!

    As stupid as it may be for teachers, in most circumstances, to be friends on Facebook with their students, it would be even stupider to try to regulate against it. What about where the teacher IS a real world friend of the student? What about where the teacher is an aunty or uncle - or even parent - of the child? What about where the teacher is a special needs carer who, say, provides special transport to school.<br><br>I had two teachers at school whom I considered friends. One often gave me a ride to school because he lived next door ... it was a different era, but should a person like him be chastised for using the convenience of FB to tell me when he can't give me a ride?<br><br>The other teacher watched out for me when I was being bullied. May have been handy if Facebook existed then, now I think about it.
    RayAhern
    • RE: Law repealed: teachers can be Facebook friends with students

      @RayAhern <br><br>>What about where the teacher IS a real world friend of the student? What about where the teacher is an aunty or uncle - or even parent - of the child<br><br>You've got to be kidding, right?? You do what has been done before FB. You deal with it at a personal/related level. Just because you could be related doesn't mean that YOU HAVE TO communicate via FB. If you think that FB is the only way to communicate then you really need to get out more often without your gadgets.<br><br>My wife has taught for 30 years and just shakes her head at the stupidity of all this. You keep everything at a professional level and always at an arms length. If you are not a teacher then you probably don't understand. If you are then you should check your professionalism.
      dave01234
  • RE: Law repealed: teachers can be Facebook friends with students

    I'm glad that, for once, common sense has over-ruled the freaks who want to regulate every aspect of life.
    Steve__Jobs
  • RE: Law repealed: teachers can be Facebook friends with students

    it is strange, maybe, BUT I do agree with both sides here.

    I do not think it is a good idea for an adult who is not a relative or a parent of the child to be child friend on any social network. and to have an unsupervised contacts with said child.

    However, you can not, should not regulate every aspect of every bodies live all the time. some thing needs to be a common sense kind of (DUH....) things.

    also I myself. personally do not have a FB account or any social network account short of LinkedIn. and do not think that it is a much needed way of communication.
    haven't been needed before today and hopefully not will be needed days to come.

    as for "@tiderulz" remark that "Not everyone is tied to a cell phone 24/7." well let me see here, you are not tied to cell phone 24/7 but you have the ability to IM/tweet/FBMessage right? let me ask how?

    it is either with computer or smart phone, thus you are connected.

    also there IS a several new inventions available to you at all time it's called ohh my "VOICE MAIL" or "E-MAIL"
    work just as good or better than FB/Tweet/IM
    as it is stored untill you delete it for your reviewing pleasure on your phone account (cell or land line).
    it can be send/created anytime regardless of you being there or not.
    can bee reviewed remotely from ANY phone, by simply calling the phone number in question and typing an access code.
    worked for people of this country for numerous decades so far. GET A LIFE!.
    vl1969
  • better yet . . . just outlaw social media entirely!

    Just imagine the hours saved from people at work wasting time, and all the other ill effects that social media is responsible for. Let's just quit screwing around and deal with it.
    pikeman666
  • RE: Law repealed: teachers can be Facebook friends with students

    I can't fathom why any teacher would need to be "friends" with their students? Is like being friends with Mom & Dad while you are still dependant on them. The relationship has great potential to turn manipulative, and who is the vulnerable party here?

    I wouldn't have dared to try be friends with my teachers. They were my superiors in the school environment, and anyone trieng to befriend their teacher was perceived as a brownnoser.

    Teachers are supposed to be there to teach and to lead their charges in their education, not to be buddies. This seems to be just a little farther down the road of the teachers being babysitters cause both parents are too busy for their kids.

    Bad Decision.
    inkwell
  • Too bad it was repealed, I liked the law

    It's a very bad idea to have teachers and students be friended through Facebook. There are much better and more professional ways for teachers to communicate directly with students.
    Speednet
    • RE: Law repealed: teachers can be Facebook friends with students

      @Speednet

      I agree it is a bad idea. I think it is an even worse idea to try to prohibit it.
      sgtm8@...
  • RE: Law repealed: teachers can be Facebook friends with students

    "aims to fight inappropriate contact between students and teachers"

    Focus on the inappropriate conduct itself - don't create a blanket ban on basic communications. Humans are social creatures, and communication is an integral part of a healthy society.
    CobraA1
  • RE: Law repealed: teachers can be Facebook friends with students

    Lets not use Luddite reasoning to criticise the use of FB.
    It is an aspect of how social communications are evolving.
    Let's not espouse the Stone Age to walk, when we have a car.
    Steve__Jobs