The Missouri legislature passed a groundbreaking law that goes a long way towards increasing student protection from sexual predators but contains one section that will ban teachers and students from communications on Facebook through private accounts.
Under Section162.069: “By January 1, 2010… Teachers cannot establish, maintain, or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and parents, or have a nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student.”
There are a number of issues in play here. Most schools encourage teachers to have a website for their classrooms with advanced reading, outlines and homework assignments. Students and teachers regularly email at many schools. As in Georgia, Missouri schools are trying to prevent closed channel communications between teachers and students where inappropriate conversations can begin. In a bold statement, Missouri legislator Jane Cunningham, the bills’ sponsor told FoxNews “The social media aspect comes in because we’re finding that it’s an early pathway to sexual misconduct.”
I don’t know what research she is basing that on and I find it fascinating that Facebook is considered by some to be the “gateway drug” of sexual misconduct. I assume the logic runs that with teacher email accounts, they are not private and because the administration can review the emails at any time, there is a modicum of protection against sexual conversations.
Because so many students use Facebook to communicate instead of email, one acceptable workaround might be having teachers create a “Teacher Jane Smith” type account which is separate from their private account and is tied to the school issued email. The teacher would give the passwords to the principal and then the channel of communication would be open to third party viewing, which is the point of the statute.
As we continue to work on our book for Georgia families on social media and the law, we will monitor these emerging legislative trends.