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Teachers Say Missouri 'Facebook Law' Stops Them From Doing Their Jobs

BY Nick Judd | Friday, August 5 2011

Missouri teachers are up in arms about a new state law that prohibits them from connecting with students on social networks:

The new law forbids teachers from having "exclusive access" online with current students or former students who remain minors, meaning any contact on Facebook or other sites must be done in public rather than through private messages.

Lucinda Lawson, an English teacher at Hartville High School in southern Missouri, expects to purge nearly 80 current and former students from her Facebook account, and she worries that doing so could leave some students vulnerable.

Private messages give "truly supportive teachers the chance to get help for them when they're in dangerous or compromising situations," Lawson said.

The law, the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, calls on school districts to draw up regulations concerning what are and aren't acceptable interactions between teachers and students. It also leaves "exclusive access" undefined.

It comes, the Associated Press reports, after an AP investigation that found several incidents of Missouri teachers being fired for sexual misconduct in the early 2000s, some of which involved online messaging. But teachers in the state point out that the scrupulous among their number use private contact with students online to give them the kind of counseling, tutelage and mentorship that good teachers are supposed to give. It raises the question: Is a focus on social networks stopping a problem, or shooting the messenger?