Missouri passes law prohibiting student/teacher Facebook interaction

In Missouri it’s against the law to be Facebook friends with your teacher

As a teacher I have mixed feelings about allowing my students to interact with me on Facebook.  There was a time when I simply didn’t engage and informed students of the same.  Recently, however, I decided to give it a try.  Since I teach at a university, my students are, for the most part, adults of all ages so I was hopeful they would be responsible as adults.

The caveat to FB friending with students is that they must NEVER discuss the university, the class, or anything related.  So far I have only had to unfriend two students for breaking the rule.  As a matter of fact,  in some cases, students have become fast Facebook friends.  So, at the college level at least, it can work if done properly.

Here is a story with a different viewpoint:

If you’re a student living in Missouri, you’d better not be Facebook friends with any of your teachers – that will soon be illegal.

in missouri it's against the law to be facebook friends with students/teachers

According to Missouri Senate Bill 54 that goes into effect on August 28, any social networking — not just Facebook — is prohibited between teachers and students. It’s all part of an effort to “more clearly define teacher-student boundaries.” However, KSPR reports that It’s only direct social media contact that’s prohibited; teachers are allowed to create Facebook Pages where all students have direct access to the teacher in a more public setting.

Inappropriate contact between students and teachers is at the root of the legislation. Senate Bill 54 is designed to protect children from sexual misconduct by teachers, compelling school districts to adopt written policies between teachers and students on electronic media, social networking and other forms of communication.

Teachers and students usually shouldn’t be friends, anyway, so on the surface this sounds like a good idea. However, we wonder how this will be policed. Will the state be allowed access to Facebook accounts, personal computers or Internet service provider records to see who’s befriending teachers or students? Inappropriate relationships will be hard to detect, especially since teachers and students engaged in such relationships would probably be concealing their communications, electronic or otherwise.

The question now is, will this new law pass a constitutional test? And who would step forward to challenge it?

Many thanks to Charles White of Mashable.com

What do you think?  Do you think students and teachers should be allowed to interact on Facebook?

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Posted by on July 31, 2011. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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13 Responses to Missouri passes law prohibiting student/teacher Facebook interaction

  1. BitcoDavid

    July 31, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I taught at the college level for 6 years. I was hugely popular with the students, right up until I was “given the opportunity to teach elsewhere.” The reason behind that popularity was that I didn’t set up any kind of wall of separation between the students and myself. Other teachers at the school insisted on having some sense of boundary with the students. I just treated them like people.

    In those days, we didn’t have FB, and in fact, “MySpace” was the social networking gizmo of choice. I didn’t have an account, but I was all over Usenet. I used to invite the students to Usenet groups, to help them in their studies. FB users could do the same.

    The sharing of links, videos etc. could benefit students greatly in helping them with whatever material is being taught.

  2. Sagacious Hillbilly

    July 31, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    On the college/university level I don’t see a problem, but HS and down, it’s a good idea. . . would you really want you jr. hi or hs students to know all about your personal life? Some folks tend to post things on FB that they later regret as it is.

  3. Bradley scott

    July 31, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    When I mentioned this Bill to my roommate, we had a spirited discussion, I being pro-leaning, but listening, he, con. But that was before I read this post, and when I saw that teachers, or schools will still be able to set up facebook pages that all students have access to, well as far as HS age children and younger, it’s a no-brainer. And if college students can still have access to Prof. Frink’s Physics 101 page, what do either the student or teacher need to be each other’s FB friends for?

  4. Dorothy Anderson

    August 1, 2011 at 12:35 am

    I agree with everyone’s comments. I’d definitely include all students. Even at the college level, it’s not a good idea.

    I created an on-line teaching component back in the 90s believing that my students better learn how to use computers for English composition and post their essays on line. There was no FB back then, I still wouldn’t use it if I were teaching today.

    Here are just a few problems with FB teaching:

    1. If a teacher “friends” students and is not careful, the students might find out too much about the teacher.

    2. Most online instruction applications have a “chat” function and areas to upload papers, videos, images, etc. The instructor can interact with students and not reveal too much about her personal life.

    3. FB is not a secure site. Hackers may find out too much about students: that could be dangerous for the students.

    4. Instructors’ learning materials could be plagiarized.

    5. FB is a social site, not a learning site.

    6. A special application between students and teachers would lessen the possibility of predators stalking children.

    7. If instructors provide learning materials with a subject such as “evolution,” creationists might be dangerous to the instructor.

    The State of Missouri. It’s a good law and should be instituted in all states.

    • Bradley scott

      August 1, 2011 at 1:37 am

      What she said! 😉 I have daughters and grandchildren.

    • Angi

      August 1, 2011 at 11:53 am

      With regards to #5: does learning only occur during school hours? I would say not. I have a FB account for my HS students and they contact me during the summer with questions on how to use software, etc or wanting my feedback on projects they’ve created on their own at home during the summer months.

      I use FB as a COLLABORATION site, not necessarily a SOCIAL site. Furthermore, I don’t post anything on my personal FB account that I wouldn’t share publicly with anyone anyway. I have nothing to hide and I act professionally in my actions, even when I’m NOT at work. As a teacher, I represent my school even when I am NOT teaching; I have a reputation to uphold.

      And studies show that student success is directly related to those 3 R’s, one of which is “relationships!” You MUST build a relationship with the students in order to connect to them. And you must relate to them on THEIR level (in this day). FB is where they are.

      Just my opinion.

      • Bradley scott

        August 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm

        How would having a public page that all your students could access limit your collaboration ability?

    • Dan

      August 2, 2011 at 11:16 pm

      Dorothy has obviously not been in a school or classroom in the past 10 years. Students communicate only through electronic media. Also, the law makes no provision to exempt teachers who are friends of their own relatives, such as their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, who they have also had as students. How can we tell a grandmother who had her grandson as a student (It has happened in my own family) that she now cannot communicate with her own grandson on facebook without violating the law. Jane Cunningham is an idiot who is out to take away everything good and fun about student teacher relationships. This law will never pass Constitutional muster and should be repealed. BE A PARENT and quit asking the State to do the work for you.

  5. Mr. Eizyk

    August 1, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I am a social sciences teacher in a 1 to 1 high school in Iowa. I have a few issues with this bill, even though I feel the end result- cutting down on inappropriate relationships- is what we all want.

    A couple of points. First, quoting from the bill: “Teachers also cannot have a nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student”.

    1.) The whole “former student” thing kind of seems hard to enforce, for example:

    -If a student at 18 years old wants to friend that second grade teacher who really helped him out when feeling bad, he and the teacher are breaking the law?

    -In smaller communities it is not uncommon to be family friends with teachers and their families. How are they going to police this? Seems like it gives law enforcement the discretion to go after thousands of teachers if they so choose.

    – There is a lot of potential for a “Salem Witch hunt” situation persecuting great teachers without due process, wasted tax dollars having to track thousands of instances,
    and a big brother (your rights mean nothing) government mentality.

    2.) Our school prides itself as being a premier 21st century learning environment, and we use all the tools we can to deliver quality instruction to our students. There are teachers that do indeed use tools like twitter effectively in the classroom to engage students who ten years ago would have slipped between the cracks.

    Teaching is changing. Our students already use these tools in their daily lives, and wouldn’t it be a shame if effective, creative teachers were dissuaded from teaching in a state because of a culture that does not value their skills?

    3.) The “Amy Hestir Protection Act” was inspired by a woman who was abused in 7th grade by a teacher. She is now 40 years old. How many social networking sites were around some 30 years ago? Not to ever belittle her courageous struggle overcoming years of pain, but ask yourself: Would this law have protected Amy thirty years ago? Absolutely not. So what are legislators trying to achieve by enacting such a law?

    I’ll tell you what they have achieved. Making Missouri a state where education is not embracing the future, by limiting tools and resources. Making Missouri a state where great teachers become paranoid and feel undervalued in society. And finally, making Missouri a state where I and thousands of like minded creative teachers will never work.

    • Dan

      August 2, 2011 at 11:21 pm

      Excellent Points. You should run for Govenor in Missouri. You would get my vote and my funding dollars. Thanks.

  6. Sagacious Hillbilly

    August 1, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Mr. Elzyk,
    All good points. You sound like a great teacher. From what I’ve seen, this law seems ill conceived and not specific enough.
    When I was in graduate school at the ripe old age of 40 and recently divorced, I had a great relationship with one of my professors who was my age. I simply never took another class from her after we began our relationship. The dept. head was cool with it, I even attended faculty functions with her as her significant other.
    Would the Missouri law banned me from being her FB friend?
    There is a big difference between HS and younger kids and college and older ADULTS.

    • Bradley scott

      August 1, 2011 at 6:41 pm

      Maybe a little less stressing on the specificity of the law, and a modicum common sense on the enforcement side is in order. While a 40 year old teacher and a forty year old student wouldn’t- or at least shouldn’t, imo- raise an eybrow, especially since you scrupulously avoided taking her classes after beginning your relationship, there is a big difference between that and a 40 year old teacher and an 18year old college freshman, and little if any difference between an 18 year old college freshman, and an 18 year old High School senior. With a child in college, and three in grade school, I prefer to err on the side of caution.

  7. Brendan

    August 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    It doesn’t ban all social networking, it just limits how it is done. I have read the bill, and it only limits the accessibility of said forums.