Friends on Facebook

Beginning this school year, Missouri teachers will no longer be able to friend their students on Facebook or other social networks. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 54 last week, which prohibits social networking between students and teachers. Missouri is the first state to take this measure; the law takes effect Aug. 28. Also known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, the regulations aim to prevent sexual misconduct by teachers. The act’s namesake was a woman who was assaulted by a high school teacher. SB 54 also requires that school districts develop written policies about interactions between students and school employees that: …include appropriate oral and nonverbal personal communication, which may be combined with sexual harassment policies, and appropriate use of electronic media as described in the act, including social networking sites. 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 non-work-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student. Teachers are, however, permitted to create the more public Facebook Pages and have students be a “fan” of them,. While proponents support the protection of students, critics say the law is too vague and broad, and will be ineffective.

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