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Missouri Law Says Students, Teachers Can't Be Facebook Friends 415

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the behind-the-times dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Teachers can be friendly with their students, but they can't be their friends, at least when it comes to social networks such as Facebook. State Governor Jay Nixon has signed Senate Bill 54, which goes into effect on August 28, 2011 in the state of Missouri. In other words, later this month it will be illegal for students and teachers to be friends online."
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Missouri Law Says Students, Teachers Can't Be Facebook Friends

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @12:00PM (#36960688)

    Wow, that place has changed a lot since I was there. Back in my day, we didn't even have clothes. Just ran around naked and illiterate all day.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by swordgeek (112599)

      They still do. They just make facebook posts about it now.

    • Apparently they do have the internet in Missouri. They might, however, be lacking the Constitution. Doesn't this touch on "freedom of association" issues?

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Not any more than when therapists lose their license for dating patients.

        • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @12:27PM (#36961120)
          Your analogy is not apt as there is a difference between dating and associating. Also the restriction means they lose the license for unprofessional conduct. The state did not make it illegal for them to date.
      • by leamanc (961376)

        What "freedom of association"? There is only "guilt by association".

      • It probably protects the teachers more than anything else.
        If you're a teacher and your student posts pictures of themselves getting drunk, what is you legal obligation?
        Are you an accessory? What if the student dies from drinking and parents sue you for not doing anything when you knew about it? etc
        Also there are privacy issues regarding teachers and studens (not as bad a doctors) that can be easily violated.

        I'm not saying it's not a stupid law, but to be honest you have to be a really stupid teacher to frie

  • Obviously it's more appropriate to have inappropriate sexual advances made in person rather than while you're safely miles from the teacher, under parental protection/supervision.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      You do realize that parental supervision isn't a given, right. And furthermore than students that do end up being victimized by the teacher aren't necessarily the sort that have parents that are interested in their lives enough to notice if things are happening that shouldn't be happening.

      Really, it's probably never been such a hot idea for teachers and students to have social lives that include each other while the students are still at that school. Not so much for College students, but definitely for stud

      • by RingDev (879105)

        And you realise that IF the perform such contact via an environment like Facebook, that logs and indexes every interaction, that proving the communications would be trivial and likely pose as significant evidence in court.

        It's just like many other attempts to reduce a specific behavior. The law won't change the behavior, it will just push it to less monitored channels.

        -Rick

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Building the basis for those advances could be done at a distance.

      There is good reason for barriers against fraternization.

    • It does seem to be simple fear of technology (Child molestation? Meh, happens all the time. Wait WHAT?!? THE INTERNET WAS INVOLVED?!?! OH GOD!!!) but does make some sense by accident. People are bolder online than they are in real life, some pervs may start something online that they would be too scared to start face to face.

      Moreover, in my experience, I was -never- alone with a teacher in school, I'm guessing school policies dictate that. Online it's just you and whoever you're talking to. If a
  • by rwven (663186)

    Too much crap, from favoritism to improper relationships, could originate between teachers and students on facebook.

    • So if you are friends with a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or family friend and then that person becomes your teacher, you have to unfriend?

    • I disagree.

      Many of my former students (I last taught in 2005) are connected to me on LinkedIn, and it's amazing to watch how they've progressed since they left and set out on their careers. The teaching salary sucked, and the politics sucked even worse (I still know of a few rather petty little individuals at the school who can burn in hell if it were up to me). However, the feeling of watching what were once students with a passion for the craft, now working as successful systems administrators and program

      • by hedwards (940851)

        If they're former students that's a different matter. I do agree that it is rewarding to see what they're up to later on, some of my students have gone on to do some pretty impressive stuff.

        But, mixing personal and professional lives really doesn't work when one party is still under age. Sure, you can and should express an interest, but you have to be really mindful not to let the line blur too much. You can sort of make it work in some instances if you're all adults, but that only works if you're being emp

      • LinkedIn is a very different structure... It is designed to be more professional and a professional distance. I have people on my LinkedIn that I would never have on my FaceBook, even though I make sure there isn't anything embarrassing on my Facebook account, but it more the point of keeping a Professional Distance.

    • Too much crap, from favoritism to improper relationships, could originate between teachers and students on facebook.

      I could say the same thing about "schools". A place where teachers and students are in the actual physical presence of another?!?! This is just begging for abuse...

    • by dcollins (135727)

      Who cares what "could" happen? Freedom of speech & association. And generally enough fiddly victim-named laws already.

      If improper favoritism or relationships develop, then discipline that. Once you have evidence. And someone's actually hurt by it.

  • by ShaunC (203807) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @12:03PM (#36960722)

    Senate Bill 54 is dubbed the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act. It is named after a Missouri public school student who was repeatedly molested by a teacher several decades ago.

    Several decades ago? Yeah, definitely Facebook's fault! Let's make a law!

    This is already policy in a lot of school districts, simply because there are too many potential problems that could arise between students and teachers becoming too "friendly." Even where it's not policy, I can't imagine why any teacher in their right mind would accept the risk of "friending" students online. I think it ought to remain a district-level thing, though.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Being professional means not having social media accounts period or at most having obfuscated accounts which so state.

      Embrace the utility of barriers!

      Keep all comms to email and don't interact with students outside class.

      If it's not strictly business, strictly avoid it. Been there, done that, it's easy so no excuse no to.

    • by vlm (69642)

      I think it ought to remain a district-level thing, though.

      That would make exceptions much simpler. My high school graduating class had two kids that I can think of after this many years, who had a parent teaching at the school. That must be weird to be legally unable to monitor your own kids activities online merely because of your job.

  • And kind of creepy as well. I would be perfectly comfortable with a teacher being fired for friending his students on facebook. I don't think it should rise to the level of criminality in and of itself though, and criminalizing the act itself is of questionable legality.
    • by scubamage (727538)
      So if he has a child, and they end up going to his school and are friends on facebook, he should be fired for that? There are corner cases here you're not considering.
    • by lionchild (581331)

      In the state of Missouri, there are protections in place to keep long-standing teacher from simply being fired without cause. That list of cause has been codified, long before online social networks were concieved. As a result, this sort of thing falls into a grey area.

      Making the act criminal, gives just cause for school districts to terminate a tenured teacher.

      The logistics of this are, however, more nightmare-like than one could imagine on the surface. What do you do if someone masqurades as a teacher

    • by ArcCoyote (634356)

      Which is why (if you RTFA) you'll see the law does not ban student-teacher relationships on social networks, but ensures they can be supervised.

      A teacher can't personally friend students, but a teacher can create a Facebook group for the class and invite the students, just as long as the school administration and parents are also allowed to join.

    • Horseshit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @12:30PM (#36961180)

      And kind of creepy as well. I would be perfectly comfortable with a teacher being fired for friending his students on facebook.

      Unbelievable. So, teachers are all potential pedophiles, eh?

      In this day and age finding decent role models is near impossible. Politicians are all lying scumbags. Business leaders are cheating sons of bitches. Scientists are spineless cowards. And entertainers are just garbage.

      There were actually a few teachers in my day who actually took the depressed, shy, abused, and withdrawn child that I was and inspired me to try to do better. Some of them were able to pull talents out of me that I didn't realize that I possessed. If I had more contact with them - on a professional and even friend level - I think that my life would be much much better.

      Looking back from my middle aged wisdom, I can see teachers who were enthusiastic about teaching and their subjects - they loved children. The thought of them molesting or doing anything to harm a child (0-18 years old) doesn't even cross my mind.

      I have known sleazy people who preyed on children - they did it in private and they were slick about it - they would never do it on Facebook - to great of a chance of being caught.

    • by Amouth (879122)

      so you are questioning if it is even legal to do BUT your fine for having some one fired for the action (basically derailing their life).

      I will say that i am friends with a lot of my old teachers and coaches.. when i'm in town i drop by to say hi and see how things are going.. for the ones that have moved away its a random e-mail, still contact.

      now i don't have them "friend-ed" on facebook - because well i don't use "social networking" - but rather communicate with people and make friends.

      now.. why should t

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      I don't think it should rise to the level of criminality in and of itself though, and criminalizing the act itself is of questionable legality.

      It's incredibly questionable. Freedom of association, anyone?

      I don't think it actually creates a criminal offense though. Bill text [mo.gov], relevant section:

      SECTION 162.069 - By January 1, 2012, every school district must develop a written policy concerning teacher-student communication and employee-student communications. Each policy must 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 nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student. Former student is defined as any person who was at one time a student at the school at which the teacher is employed and who is eighteen years of age or less and who has not graduated.

      By January 1, 2012, each school district must include in its teacher and employee training a component that provides information on identifying signs of sexual abuse in children and of potentially abusive relationships between children and adults, with an emphasis on mandatory reporting. Training must also include an emphasis on the obligation of mandated reporters to report suspected abuse by other mandatory reporters.

      If it was creating a criminal charge, one assumes it would have mentioned the class and punishment.

    • And kind of creepy as well. I would be perfectly comfortable with a teacher being fired for friending his students on facebook. I don't think it should rise to the level of criminality in and of itself though, and criminalizing the act itself is of questionable legality.

      I'm not quite sure when we equated "friends" on a web site with "friends" in real life. If we're really that concerned about a teacher's ability to properly manage social relationships and moderate their behavior around children, shouldn't it disturb us that the teacher gets to spend 6 hours a day in a room with them?

      And for what it's worth, if you think firing a teacher is a lower level action than a criminal prosecution, you haven't taken a close look at teacher tenure laws recently. At least in my state,

    • It depends on what you use it for. Often we use facebook to coordinate and publicize community and school theatrical events. I'm in my 40s, but have quite a few school aged "friends" (from 10 and up) and may friends in the drama and music departments of several schools. It's easy to have community, church, or extra-curricular activities where"friendships" spill across age barriers. Not all relationships between students and teachers are classroom based, and they don't have to be "creepy."

  • [quote]It is named after a Missouri public school student who was repeatedly molested by a teacher several decades ago. [/quote] I'm guessing the law is more encompassing than just Facebook friends, it probably aims to prevent students and teachers from becoming friends at all. Otherwise the name of the law would be rather odd given that I don't think any students and teachers were hooking up via Facebook several decades ago.
  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @12:04PM (#36960750) Journal
    My husband (prof) routinely turns down any students that try to friend him on Facebook. Heck, he's paranoid about having anyone at his school friend him, including his fellow professors. I've also got a similar policy for work - NONE of my current coworkers are on my FB, only ones from previous jobs. It's sad they felt the need to legislate common sense.
    • Hell, I have multiple supervisors on my Facebook friends list. I solve the problem by being careful about what I post.

    • by Hylandr (813770)

      Not that I am faulting your logic, but I was wondering if you could shed some light on your perspective of common sense in regards to co workers.

      - Dan.

    • So why not have them friend him on LinkedIn?

      As a former prof I had them connect with me there, and it has worked out well ever since. Unlike Facebook, the relationships are strictly professional so there's no implied BS (sexual, favoritism, or otherwise) attached.

  • At least Missouri lawmakers are thinking of the children. /sarcasm

    In reality, it appears as though Missouri lawmakers are not thinking at all.
  • Just in missouri it appears there must be a lack of common sense which is why they need a law for it.

  • Dumb question... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nebaz (453974) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @12:09PM (#36960834)

    What happens if your teacher is your parent?

    • by scubamage (727538)
      I'm wondering this as well. Even more - what about homeschooled children?
    • by itsdapead (734413)

      What happens if your teacher is your parent?

      That's just a Bad Idea. It was a Bad Idea decades before Facebook - take it from me. (You really, really don't want to be the only kid in class who can have their allowance docked/be grounded by your teacher). At least in a regular school setting: home schooling might be a different kettle of fish.

      However, its the sort of Bad Idea that teachers ought to be able to sort out using their own professional judgements without using the law as a blunt instrument.

  • 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.

    No online attendance system or grading system unless the parents have access? Weird. By attendance system I don't mean the kids attendance, but the teachers attendance (sick days, medical leave, etc). Weird.

    Teachers also cannot have a nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student.

    For education major K-12 teachers this makes sense, err, sorta. Does this apply to the independent contractor/consultants hired to teach my CS college level courses? What is the liability if a teacher quits, goes into private industry, and unknowingly friends a coworker who was a student decades ago

    • by vlm (69642)

      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.

      Oh wait I can beat that... School has access to lexis-nexis, they now MUST purchase subscriptions for all "legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian"

  • Facebook should've just called them "contacts", because that's what they are.
    Now how do we clear up this misunderstanding?

  • I'd say if you're in Missouri, you should get the hell out while you still can.
  • Teachers and students should be the ones to make this decision not the state.

    And if the students happen to be minors the parents should be monitoring their child's Facebook usage, again not the State.

    I'm not sure what this moronic governor thinks, but the government is not a replacement for parenting.

  • by z4ce (67861)

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    How in the world does a law forbidding teachers from being friends with students meet that criteria?

    • by gQuigs (913879)

      right of the people peaceably to assemble
      In other Constitution's it is spelled out a little more it seems: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_association [wikipedia.org]

    • Because Congress didn't enact this law?
    • Same way the government has infringed on countless other areas.

      It's a regulation.

      The federal government gets around various state rights programs by taxing people, setting up a federal program, then attaching a bunch of regulation the states must adopt. Don't like the law? Don't take the money!

      Here, this is a regulation on education. Don't like it? Don't be a teacher. Don't worry, the government has already taxed people enough to fund the public monopoly system so most people don't have the ability to

    • by alen (225700)

      almost every organization has rules about fraternizing between teachers and students or anyone with power over someone in general. these things go back to before there was a united states.

      now that i think about it, i can't peaceably assemble with people in the middle of a highway. my rights are being trampled

    • by Amouth (879122)

      because it wasn't Congress that made it - this is a state level law not a federal

  • by hoggoth (414195) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @12:16PM (#36960944) Journal

    I see everyone is in agreement with this.
    It's a shame. When I was a teenager I was friends with one of my teachers. He took me under his wing, brought me to cool places that I wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise. He became friends with my family. Never an inappropriate touch or word.

    But everyone knows now that all men are child molesters, especially teachers.

    • by scubamage (727538)
      And likewise, all female teachers are awesome. Well, except the ugly ones. And even they're still mostly awesome.
  • Every teacher I know has their own facebook policy. I really think this is best.

    Most teachers that I know have separate facebook accounts. One is for being friends with the students, and one is personal. I know one person that even uses facebook to discuss assignments during off-work hours. It's an easy way for her to make sure that the students see what she posts.

    I can't figure out why a law would be needed here.

    • Indeed, not friending students (or friending them all) is smart policy for teachers.  But, should everything inappropriate or which <i>might</i> lead to abuse be criminalised?  I think it should be left as a matter of individual judgement.  Criminalize the abuse, not the setting in which it might or might not occur.
  • I haven't read the entire Bill, but I'm not sure I agree with the article's interpretation of it. The section that the article writer has a problem with says this:

    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 nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student.

    The article writer is concerned about the second sentence, stating that "(i)t’s the actual friending, messaging, and whatever other direct connection you can make on a social network that will not be allowed". However, the second sentence really doesn't say that. In fact, the start of the paragraph, which the article writer skipped over, sta

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Surely the sentence the article writer is concerned about still applies though. School districts are required to define their policies but then there are two already defined rules encoded in the law itself. Why would those two not apply?

  • FTFA:

    Senate Bill 54 is dubbed the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, which aims to fight inappropriate contact between students and teachers, including protecting children from sexual misconduct by their educators. It is named after a Missouri public school student who was repeatedly molested by a teacher several decades ago.

    Not only no friending on Facebook, BTW. It doesn't allow "social networking" contact through any means (i.e. IMing), although it does seem to have an exception for work-related websites (i.e. school-monitored), and it only seems to include networking websites (which is odd). What, exactly, is this law supposed to achieve? No teacher looking to molest a kid is going to care if they are breaking this law, and it's easy enough to avoid being caught. And teachers, who have close contact with their student

  • Can they still poke each other even if they're not friends?
  • You can legislate the process, or you can legislate the outcome. But you can't do both. The problem is, most of our Congress critters write school legislation the same way they write the tax code. It doesn't work that way. When you mandate the state curriculum and direct teachers to spent their classroom time in specific ways, you remove their ability to use their own judgement and skills in a field that desperately requires that level of micromanagement.

    So, in our fear of the unquantifiable, we've removed

  • How does this work when the teacher/principal is a parent/grand parent of the student?

  • Seriously tho, some teachers use FB to help students with their homework and such. One kid asks a question that many others in the class may have. When the teacher answers it, many students can benefit.

  • I'm upset that none of the hot female teachers when I was growing up wanted to leave their husbands and bang me during and after my junior high classes.

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