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State 'Facebook Law' Limits Teacher-Student Interactions Online

A new Missouri law signed last month takes what some call drastic steps to limit online interactions between teachers and students.

The Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, was passed with the aim of protecting students who had been sexually harassed by teachers, and preventing teachers who had sexually assaulted students from being transferred to different school districts.  Nicknamed "The Facebook Law," it contains the following provisions requiring schools to establish policies by January 1, 2012 regarding electronic media and student-teacher boundaries:

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.

No teacher shall establish, maintain, or use a work-related internet site unless such site is available to school administrators and the child's legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian.

No teacher shall establish, maintain, or use a nonwork-related internet site which allows exclusive access with a current or former student.

The law takes effect August 28. The Today Show's website reports that some teachers think the law is overkill for what's needed to ensure student safety:

Randy Turner, Joplin East Middle School communication arts teacher, wrote on her blog that "hundreds of teachers across the state who have effectively used Facebook and other social networking sites to communicate with students, and I am one of those, will have to trash years worth of work, because all teachers are potential criminals" in the view of the author of the bill, State Sen. Jane Cunningham.

"The teachers I know who communicate with students through Facebook have a large number of parents as 'friends' and most of the communication with students is done on the Facebook wall," Turner wrote.

And, she noted, the bill went through "in spite of the positive effect that teachers and students being Facebook friends had on Joplin Schools' effort to locate students after the May 22 tornado."

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