Friday, August 26, 2011

Missouri's Teacher-Facebook Law Struck Down

For those living out of state, you may not have heard of this law, so here's the story:

Earlier this year, the Missouri legislature passed a new law banning teachers from using websites that granted "exclusive access" to students, current or former. The bill was proposed to close potential gateways for predators. It was primarily targeted for websites like facebook.

But immediately, it was noted that the bill had some substantial flaws. Firstly, it didn't just tell teachers that they couldn't use websites to communicate with students, it said teachers couldn't use the websites at all. This would have an obvious chilling effect on teachers ability to their protected free speech and as such, would be unconstitutional. Additionally, it didn't make exceptions for parents that were teachers communicating with their own children. In general, the poor wording just made the law plain stupid.

Aside from that, several people criticized the law because it cut off potential gateways for communication that is good. In other words, teachers work to reach out to students through the methods students are employing, such as texts, twitter, and facebook. Obviously, much of such communication could be done openly, but there are often times students don't want to be seen asking for help and would rather do it behind the scenes. Similarly, any sensitive information like grades is required to be discussed privately. While this could certainly be done through a district controlled Email, let's face it, it's not what students are tending to use. Facebook chats and messages have largely replaced traditional Email. Cutting that out throws the baby out with the bathwater. So again, this creates more problems that it solves.

The last issue people (including myself) have with this bill, is the light it casts on teachers: Once again, they're the bad guys. It automatically assumes that teachers are all sexual predators just waiting for a private channel of communication. Guilty until proven innocent. Meanwhile, it places no admonitions for parents to monitor their kids online activity or text logs. It once again removes parental responsibility and places it everywhere but where it should be.

So no matter how I look at it, the bill is a pretty large failure and seeing it struck down is wonderful.

But what bothers me the most is that it even got signed into law with such glaring flaws. Not only that, it was passed unanimously. Politicians should need to understand law before writing it.

1 comment:

Stephen Fullerton said...

Damn right we should be watch all thoe sexual predators, Teachers, gays, you know them bad elements in society