Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

Summary: 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.

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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.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Networking

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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  • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

    I think it's a rubbish idea. Education is miles more effective when the teacher and student have a decent rapport. This is another stupidly overblown response to a problem which will continue to occur regardless of the new law. I mean, what's going to stop the teacher and child making anonymous accounts somewhere?
    Imrhien
    • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

      @Imrhien

      That's right. Laws can't fix the corruption in people's minds. People have to keep themselves moral on their own. People need to purify their own minds instead of getting the government to pass more and more and more laws. Even when laws are passed there are always still loopholes to be found and exploited by those who have corrupt minds. I think it's very telling that this law was named after a student who's situation obviously had nothing to do with a relationship over a social network with a teacher.
      josh92
      • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

        @josh92 Why not pass a new law, no teachers can have any sort of contact with a student... all education must come from a computer screen.. virtual classrooms..make it law... that way, no teachers can actually have any contact wit students... we could even have vir<a href="http://www.tran33m.com/vb/">t</a>ual sports.. using like the WII or the Kinect.. then that will cut down on injuries... and new software created.. which turns in im<a href="http://vb.maas1.com/">m</a>ediately any person who takes a nude photo with their phone... new software that turns in any child who is out after curfew.... Politicians eager for a name and a paycheck... YOU the citizens lose!
        alasiri5
    • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

      @Imrhien This has been the case in the UK for years - it's not illegal for teachers to be friends with students on social media but you would probably be struck off the teaching register for doing it. There are limited cases where it's acceptable - some schools host their own versions of Facebook for use with current and former students and teachers where it's moderated and can be used for school work. Some schools let certain teachers give out their WORK phone number to students so they can contact them with concerns or questions about exams/university choices etc. I'd certainly not want my son's teachers 'friending' them on Facebook, though not for fear of inappropriate contact - think of the crap that some people put on FB. I used to be a teacher and I know teachers who put all sorts of things about work and themselves that would destroy reputations (including the school itself)

      I also know some who did use it for inappropriate contact. They've now been dealt with by the police...
      pnlrogue1
  • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

    Why would they name this bill after a student who was molested before the advent of Social Media? The name itself implies that sexual exploitation is the direct result of social media. It seems that his is something that could have been part of something as simple as a code of conduct.
    ClarisaClarity
  • Liability

    The main probable reason for this ban could be liability. The state may be covering their rear ends from the possible issues generated by having an "official representative of the state" having access to a the kid Facebook page.
    wackoae
  • I almost got fired for this

    Back when MySpace was the hit social network. The kicker was it was for being friends with my own sister which was a senior in High School in the same School district I worked at. Someone complained that I was friends with a current student and I guess neglected to notice that the last names were the same. They brought me into HR and had me open my page and had me explain every person under the age of 18 that was my friend. They were all relatives so the HR Superintendent apologized and said there was no problem.

    That being said I kind of agree with this. There are plenty of other ways to build up a rapport than being Facebook friends or something. There are too many risky variables involved and I think any self respecting teacher would realize that and politely decline any student friendships.
    bobiroc
    • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

      @bobiroc
      THe idea is insane. It doesn't seem to specify any age information, or even where the person in question is a student, or a teacher. It would prohibit a parent that is a teacher from being 'friends' with their own children, nieces, nephews, etc. Facebook is how my family keeps in touch. Sure glad I don't live in Missouri. Perhaps someone needs to Show them how stupid this idea is.
      rphunter42
      • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

        @rphunter42

        I would hope there would be exceptions for real personal relationships such as family. I guess I just think it is a safe practice to be friends with people you are really friends with. While it is nice to have a good relationship with your students I would think that could be done with out facebook. I am sure the school district is being a bit extreme here as I work for one and they tend to over-react but there is a level of liability here and the school has to protect themselves too. All it takes is for one parent to complain and the lawsuits come a flyin'. Also with all the teachers in the news sleeping with students these past years I can see how the school district can be concerned. In my experience schools have strict policies about forming personal and non teaching type relationships with students all the way through college.
        bobiroc
  • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

    As a middle school teacher, I have always had the personal policy not to be FB friends with any students until after they graduate from high school. The only current students I have as friends are my nieces and nephews. Is this illegal too? This law sounds as if it will ban me from becoming friends with any former students forever. I have former students that are in their 20's. How can they ban me from being friends with adults? I live in a small town where everyone knows each other well. It sounds like a silly law.
    hooptie72
    • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

      @hooptie72

      As a Missouri high school teacher in a small town, I had the same concerns. However, when you look at the bill, it defines a former student as "any person who was at one time a student at the school at which the teacher is employed and who is eighteen years of age or less and who has not graduated." So once they turn 19 or graduate, the law does not apply to them.
      gv_swimmer
    • They can't. I can see this being struck down by the courts.

      @hooptie72: [i]As a middle school teacher, I have always had the personal policy not to be FB friends with any students until after they graduate from high school. The only current students I have as friends are my nieces and nephews. Is this illegal too? This law sounds as if it will ban me from becoming friends with any former students forever. I have former students that are in their 20's. How can they ban me from being friends with adults? I live in a small town where everyone knows each other well. It sounds like a silly law.[/i]
      ye
    • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

      @hooptie72 Reading the text of the bill, it only restricts teachers from having former students currently under the age of 18 and not-yet-graduated as friends. In other words, don't friend a 17 year-old junior that was your student as a 15-year-old freshman.
      lemmyc
  • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

    "including protecting children from sexual misconduct by their educators."

    . . . and how exactly does banning Facebook friends protect them?

    Better idea: Fire the profs who are engaging in sexual misconduct, and prevent them from ever being in the education system again.
    CobraA1
    • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

      @CobraA1 That might actually work; we can't do that.
      blueskip
  • Message has been deleted.

    FourLeaf1
  • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

    This will not stop all the touchy feely that goes on in schools between teachers and students. It's nonsense in my opinion, but ridiculous laws are passed everyday.
    Bates_
  • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

    I realize I'm going to be in the minority here... but while I think it's ridiculous that there is an actual policy in place, I think the idea is correct. Just as Bosses and employees shouldn't be friends on facebook, Teachers and Students shouldn't be.
    Badgered
    • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

      @Badgered definitely in the minority - at least you know your place
      blueskip
    • RE: Missouri bans students and teachers from being Facebook friends

      @Badgered Where did you ever get the idea that bosses cannot date or have sex with employees least of all be friends on facebook. While it might not be a great idea, I have seen office marriages happen. If done PROPERLY, an instructor can have a facebook page and use it to post assignments and to keep the class all on the same "page". As someone pointed out, they named this after a student who was molested before the invention of the WWW. Goes to show that fb has little to do with teachers doing the wrong thing.
      hforman@...