As districts across the country debate the boundaries of social media in the class room, Missouri took an unprecedented step by passing the first statewide law banning teachers from individual communication with their students on social networks. The bill was passed with bipartisan support in the Missouri legislature and signed by Gov. Jay Nixon on July 14. The Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, which became effective Aug. 28, was created in response to a middle school student who was sexually abused by a teacher following communication on Facebook. While acknowledging some parts of the bill have merit, including asking schools to develop a policy regarding social networking, some groups, including the Missouri State Teachers Association, are worried the bill is a knee-jerk reaction and could hinder vital communication between teachers and students.
"The bill is vague, and it doesn't allow for direct contact that isn't public, which is concerning for teachers," says Todd Fuller, spokesperson for the MSTA. "There are a lot of people wondering what happens next."
MSTA is planning on fighting the social media provisions of the bill, and members will collaborate at their November conference in St. Louis.