Teachers Win Battle In Missouri Facebook War

Teachers in Missouri rang in the early days of the school year with a victory in the Missouri state Senate, where a law prohibiting Facebook friendships between teachers and students was repealed.

Teachers in Missouri rang in the early days of the school year with a victory in the Missouri state Senate, as a law prohibiting Facebook friendships between teachers and students was repealed.

Missouri Senate Bill 54, which aimed to “more clearly define teacher-student boundaries” by prohibiting connections on Facebook or other social networks, was slated to go into effect Aug. 28.

However, ZDNet’s Friending Facebook blog reports that new law Senate Bill 1 — which was introduced during a special session earlier this month and passed 33-0 — is now headed for committee in the state’s House.

Sen. Jane Cunningham (R-West County) was the sponsor of both bills. SB1 would require every school district to submit a written policy covering communications between district employees and students by March 1, according to Friending Facebook.

Educators were unhappy with SB54 for several reasons, including the feeling that social networks like Facebook and other communication methods like texting are used the most by students, and cutting off communication by those methods could prove to be detrimental.

Friending Facebook also pointed out that educational products that make use of Facebook, such as virtual learning environment Moodle, would be affected adversely.

Despite the progress so far of SB1, the Missouri State Teachers Association has not dropped a lawsuit it filed in August. The complaint argues that SB54 infringes on educators’ First Amendment rights of free speech, association, and religion, and asks the court to keep that section of law from being implemented until its constitutionality can be determined, according to Friending Facebook.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem granted the MSTA’s request for a preliminary injunction; he said the evidence presented showed that social media is one of the main communication methods used by teachers in the state, and that teachers cannot face discipline for using social media not directly related to their jobs.

Readers, do you think the compromise offered in SB1, requiring school districts to implement written policies, is enough to end this controversy?