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Facebook Law Takes Center Stage
posted by: Alix | August 30, 2011, 03:00 PM   

While we discuss Facebook frequently on the AAE blog, one story about teachers and the appropriate use of the popular social networking tool has been gaining national headlines for weeks. In Missouri, a law was passed that barred teachers from communicating with students privately through Facebook. While the legislation was intended to protect students, educators in the state argue the rules go too far, citing first amendments rights and invasion of privacy.

One teacher in particular is suing the state over the controversial law. In her suit, Christina Thomas suggests the law is violating her rights under the 1st and 14th amendments by telling teachers that they cannot have "exclusive communications" with students via Facebook. The current wording of the law defines the prohibited parties as anyone under 18 who attends or used to attend the school where they teach. By that logic, Thomas alleges, she wouldn't be able to speak to her own children.

Interestingly, the legislation received more attention during session debate for its other unique components. One part of the new law requires schools to share information with other districts about school employees who have sexually abused students. Another provision requires districts to develop written policies by next school year relating to proper teacher-student communications that cover both oral conversations and electronic media such as text messages and Internet sites.

With mounting support for revising the social networking provisions, last week, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem issued a preliminary injunction against the law, arguing it "would have a chilling effect" on free speech rights. The judge put the law on hold until Feb. 20, allowing time for a hearing on whether the "Facebook law" should be permanently blocked.

While the judge argued the Facebook component was a violation of teacher rights, he did not block the other protective components, including the internet disclosures, and the establishment of comprehensive social media and internet policies for teachers and students.

This Missouri-based debate is just the latest in the overarching conversation about social media and educators. With these technologies becoming part of our every day routines, many teachers argue that Facebook and Twitter have become a common part of their interactions with students. Some technology advocates argue that barring these websites is not only a violation of teacher rights, but threatens the modern learning process and conversation.

Cleary we need to take precautions to insure student safety; however, in today's changing times, it's imperative to strike an effective balance between stated social media policies and curtailing a meaningful online dialogue between student and teacher.

What do you think about the Missouri law and student/teacher social media interaction?

Comment below.

Comments (1)Add Comment
written by Megan, Kansas, August 30, 2011

I think that it's a good thing to learn and adapt to new styles of communication. However, it is sad that we have to worry about some teachers going to far with this. As a young teacher, I come from the perspective of "new" and "flashy" educational strategies. But I am saddened when I'm told that I can't use these tools in my classroom because of what my colleagues have done in the past.

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