A Missouri teachers’ union said Friday that it will be challenging a new measure that restricts teachers’ use of social networking sites and their contact with students, saying it violated their Constitutional rights. The measure is set to go into effect on Aug. 28.
The law was proposed after the Associated Press found that 87 Missouri teachers had lost their licenses from 2001 to 2005 because of sexual misconduct. Some of the conduct involved explicit online messages with their students.
“Under the law, school districts must establish policies by January that outline “appropriate use of electronic media such as text messaging and Internet sites for both instructional and personal purposes.” Teachers are barred from having “exclusive access” online with current students or former students who are minors. That means communication through Facebook or other sites must be done in public.”
“The law restricts non-work-related websites that allow communication between a teacher and a student that cannot be viewed by others, though the measure states it is not attempting to prohibit teachers from setting up non-work websites that comply with the restrictions….”
The teachers said the law will hurt their ability to keep in touch with students for classroom purposes, personal problem and emergencies. They also say it violated their free speech rights and could impede religious freedom as well – which is explained below.
“The group’s lawsuit – a copy of which was provided to AP – asserts that the restrictions for non-work-related sites amounts to prior restraint and violate educators’ free speech rights. It also says they could impede religious freedom and association rights by barring teachers from using non-work related websites and social networking sites that allow exclusive access with students.”
“It “is so vague and overbroad that the plaintiffs cannot know with confidence what conduct is permitted and what is prohibited and thereby `chills’ the exercise of first amendment rights of speech, association, religion, collective bargaining and other constitutional rights by school teachers,” the lawsuit states.”
It sounds like based on this last paragraph that a large part of their complaint is that the law is written broadly and vaguely. They seem worried that A. they won’t know what is all covers and B. that it covers way too much, not just don’t friend your students on Facebook.
(However, I don’t believe that they won’t be able to communicate with their students effectively if they are not on Facebook with them. It’s called email or a phone. What do you guys think on that one?)
I have a little bit of new perspective on this since I just started teaching college students. The professors talked at the faculty retreat about to “friend” to not to “friend” your students. Most said they only “friend” after graduation and they were no longer students. They said it was a privilege the students earned by finishing school.
But these are people older than 18 presumably by the time they start college much less graduating. I don’t think a fourth-grade teacher wants to friend a fourth-grader who has made it into fifth grade.
I am kind of thinking it would be OK for a school system to say do not “Friend” your students while they are minors and in our school system. (What if a kid moved away to another system but was still a minor? Hmm. That might be different.)
I am on Facebook now with favorite teachers from high school, and I love communicating with them but I am also an adult. I would love to friend Walsh’s teacher from last year but I don’t want to put her out and then I can’t complain about my school if I am on with her. So I probably won’t. But I may email her from time to time. She is a wonderful person.
So what do you all think? As a parent do you want teachers communicating with your kids on Facebook, Twitter, texting (I find that a little shifty), email directly to them, phone calls directly to them? At what grade do teachers stop communicating with the parents and go straight to the students?
As teachers, what would impede your ability to get your job done and communicate easily and effectively with your students? If this law stands in Missouri would you worry about it coming to Georgia?