Teachers in Missouri, get ready to “Unfriend.”

A new law signed by Gov. Jay Nixon prohibits private student-teacher interaction on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. This means that students and teachers can not be friends on Facebook, but they can communicate on group pages, as long as they are open to the public.

Senate Bill 54 – also known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act – established the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children in an effort to protect children from sexual abuse at school. Buried within the bill is Section 162.069, which states, in part:

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.

The law has already stirred up controversy. Randy Turner, a middle school communication arts teacher in Joplin, MO, wrote in her blog that Nixon “delivered a slap in the face to Missouri teachers” last week when he signed the bill into law. Turner argues that legislation is already in place to protect students from sexual abuse, and that the new law punishes all teachers who use social networks to communicate with students “though there has not been any evidence presented that any of them have abused the privilege.”

The Amy Hestir Student Protection Act goes into effect August 28*. Do you think it is needed legislation that will protect students from possible abuse, or is it unfairly punishing teachers who successfully communicate with students outside of the traditional classroom setting?

*Updates:

October 23 – Missouri repeals the law, instead ordering all Missouri school districts to develop their own social networking policies by March 1, 2012.

August 26 – Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem grants a 180-day injunction against the law.

August 19 – The Missouri State Teachers Association files a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the social media clause (Section 162.069) of Senate Bill 54.

a slap in the face to Missouri teachers a slap in the face to Missouri teachers