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Should teachers and students be friends on Facebook?


Last week, it was announced that a new Missouri law, taking effect August 28, will prevent teachers and students from communicating privately on Facebook. According to MSNBC, Senate Bill 54 or the "Amy Hestir Student Protection Act,” is designed to protect students from sexual misconduct by their teachers, but among the many restrictions between teacher and student communication, there is a clause specifically on social networking sites. While previous reports indicated that teachers and students were banned altogether from friending each other on Facebook, further clarification seems to indicate that it’s the direct contact and messaging that’s what’s prohibited. The law also bans email and texting and has the ultimate goal of preventing inappropriate relations between teachers and students. 

Reuters reports that Missouri State Sen. Jane Cunningham, who has been working on the bill for four years, states, “I've been working on this bill or four years, and all of a sudden the whole world is interested in it.” She adds, "It's gotten a lot of attention because of misinformation," she added, clarifying that teachers can still befriend students on Facebook or be in other Internet contact as long as the sites are open to administrators, parents or others. 

The specific details are confusing to teachers and parents/students alike in Missouri, with many teachers unfriending their students after the bill was passed. It’s unknown if other states will begin to follow suit, but raises an important question on what kind of communication between teachers and students is OK. Regardless of the confusion around the nitty gritty details of the bill, many teachers think that the law is too stringent and cutting off this form of communication that this digital generation has grown accustomed to could eventually hurt student/teacher relations. 

Brent Ghan, spokesperson for the Missouri School Boards Association tells MSNBC that cutting contact in a student’s virtual world would be “unwise.” Adding, “This is how you communicate with them.” 

Randy Turner, a communication arts teacher at Joplin East Middle School in Missouri writes a lengthy post on her blog opposing the bill. She states, 

“Each year, I receive at least a dozen Facebook messages from high school students who are about to go through their first real job interview, looking for tips and wanting ways to make their resumes more effective. These are not things they are going to be willing to put on the wall for all to see. Under Sen. Cunningham's law, I will not be able to have these former students as Facebook friends until they have graduated from high school.” 

She adds, “The signing of Senate Bill 54 continues the degrading of our profession and the only effect it will have is on teachers who have always followed the law and who would never dream of violating the sacred trust we have to teach children.” 

Do you think the Missouri law is taking things too far, or is it keeping the student’s best interest at heart?





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