Missouri Bans Student-Teacher Social Networking

New Delhi, Aug 2: Missouri recently banned student-teacher Facebook friendships under a law preventing students from having social relationships with their teachers. The law specifically prevents ‘exclusive’ access to students, which bans using Facebook for things like private study groups. Some teachers believe the ban will prevent students who wouldn’t otherwise seek their counsel from reaching out. It's time to do a massive Facebook friend-purge, Missouri teachers. A new bill signed into law by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon makes it illegal for students and teachers within the state to have private relationships on Facebook. We should note that the new law isn't targeting Facebook exclusively–or even social networks. The entire point of the legislation centers on curbing sexual misconduct between teachers and students. The "Amy Hestir Student Protection Act," named for a former Missouri public school student who was molested by a teacher decades prior, increases penalties for school districts that fail to report abuse allegations within a timely manner and fail to disclose instances of past abuse by former staff members. Buried within the law, however, is a provision that effectively eliminates private social relationships between students and teachers on any of the Web's many social networks. Missouri school districts are required to develop written policies to address the "appropriate use of electronic media" by the start of 2012, which must include guidelines for social network use. "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," reads the law. "Teachers also cannot have a nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student." The word "exclusive" is the key part of the text, as the law still allows teachers to set up social networking pages for friendships, class use, or program support so long as the site is publicly available to all. But even that provision isn't sitting well with Missouri teachers who maintain that Facebook is a valuable tool for students that might otherwise feel uncomfortable bringing up issues in a face-to-face setting. "For some students, that move could very well prevent them from confiding in a trusted adult friend who might be able to help them get through serious problems in their lives," writes Randy Turner, a middle school communications arts teacher in Missouri's Joplin School District. "For Joplin students, that could be dealing with the aftermath of losing their homes and having their lives uprooted on May 22. For others, it may be confiding in just the kind of horrific crime that the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act is supposedly designed to eliminate," she adds.