Teachers In Missouri Sue For The Right To 'Friend' Their Students On Facebook

from the good-for-them dept

We recently wrote about a very questionable new state law in Missouri that made it illegal for teachers to friend “current or former students” on various social networks. This broad prohibition was targeted at the misuse of social networking by some teachers to have extremely inappropriate relationships with students. It’s understandable why such situations get people upset, but overreacting by making it illegal for teachers to friend students is just ridiculous. Thankfully, a group of teachers have filed a lawsuit saying that the law violates their First Amendment rights, as well as some other rights. The teachers are saying that online communication has become an invaluable tool for helping students — especially shy ones, and that this law will turn teachers into law-breakers to continue using useful communication services. Hopefully the law gets struck down, though the main sponsor of the bill continues to defend it.

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Comments on “Teachers In Missouri Sue For The Right To 'Friend' Their Students On Facebook”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

So this is just pandering to the boogeyman of child predators among us.

If we create this law your children will magically be safe, you will not need to check on them. There is no reason for an adult to have any kind of “online” (insert ominous music cue) relationship with children.

Let us ignore the fact they spend hours and hours with your children. Let us ignore that this law will not stop the abuse of children, trample on the teaching relationship between students and teachers (that do not always fit into the 8-3 timeframe, but it gives us this wonderful fantasy land of its illegal so it will never happen.

Thank you A Dan for confirming what I suspected.

Stuart says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Forget about sexual crap.
Do our teachers need to be friends with their students?

Is it not possible that if some professional distance is maintained between student and teacher it might have benefits?

Or that if that separation gets even smaller than it has that there will be some negative consequences?

I am a systems manager at my job. I have zero social networking connections to any of the call takers at my job.
Not because they are horrible stupid bitches. But because I need to maintain some professional distance to do my job correctly.

Some of the management here has Facebook filled with 10 of these girls or more. I have seen first hand that it can end up causing problems. Not everything in ones life should be connected to everything else.

Not saying that I agree that there should be laws passed against it. In fact I believe that the law should stay out of it. I do think however that any teacher that has current and past students as “Friends” is not acting in a professional manner. I would not allow it from any teacher I would hire at a private school. Wouldn’t hire a teacher that thinks it is a good idea either.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I don’t disagree with what you say here, but I think you’ve missed part of the point.

We’re not talking about whether or not a teacher should have a social connection with students outside of school. We’re talking about whether or not this tool should be taken away considering that it can be (and is) used as a wonderful communication system. Students are already on Facebook a gazillion times a day… where better to put communications from teachers when you want to be relatively sure they’re going to see it?

The ‘risk’ associated with this (sexual predation) is no greater here than any other communication medium. If the teachers have a ‘school approved’ website (like my girls’ teachers do), ‘inappropriate’ communication could still be had with teachers wishing to engage in that act. They could code it or hide it just as easily there.

So, considering the benefit of good communication vs. the not-increased risk… why should it be taken away?

Greg G (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Manager to employee relationships is juuuuust a bit different than that of teacher to student, donchathink?

Just because it has the potential to become inappropriate, doesn’t mean a teacher shouldn’t “friend” a student, especially if that student needs extra help in the subject being taught by said teacher. If the really shy kid that won’t speak up and ask a question in the classroom can do so via facebook, then why shouldn’t the teacher be able to communicate with the student via that platform?

And to include former students? That’s really where it goes too far. I’m no longer a student, why can’t there be such a thing as an actual friendship with a teacher? You can’t tell me that I’m just supposed to forget about, and never speak to, a teacher that may have had great influence on me during my time in his/her class.

You, sir, and politicians anywhere, cannot, and will not, tell me who I can and can’t be friends with.

TriZz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I’m the same way…I work for a small company as the systems administrator. There’s quite a few people here who are close to my age and I get along with great at work…but that’s where it ends. My FB/social networking is my private life.

Working for a small company (150 employees) there tends to be a lot of water cooler talk. I lost 80 through diet and exercise and heard rumors that I lost the weight via smoking crack rock. And, since I’m not a healthy weight and a lot better looking before, I hear a lot more “he’s sleeping with…” “he’s slept with…” and none of it is true.

Heaven forbid these rumor mongers have an actual glimpse into my real life (I think they’d be bored to death!)

And I completely agree…a teacher’s relationship with a student is far different than my relationship with the users at my company. There’s no professional benefit from me friending my coworkers. There is some benefit to the teacher/student.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I have two FB accounts. One for myself, personally. This includes only my friends and family.

My second FB is to maintain professional relationships only. This allows me to announce special classes, clinics and other events I don’t want to clutter my personal page with. It allows me to “brag” about my dogs in competitions, post action photos and maintain a high visibility within a network or pet owners that would likely never check a blog post.

I do maintain a blog, but discussions on the post often happen on FB after I post the link.

These accounts do not overlap. One is to maintain contact with my clients, allowing me to wish them well during milestone events, or offer condolences. I do not speak about my personal life on that account, merely things that deal with my job and business.

My clients have told me this makes them good, that they appreciate me taking an interest in their lives and keeping in touch even when we are not in a current business relationship. This keeps them coming back the next time they get a puppy, or if old problems resurface.

By staying visible to my former clients, I get new ones by fostering a sense of camaraderie. It keeps my name visible, keeps my accomplishments and further education goals visible and keeps me in their minds.

As a small business person that relies on word of mouth, a professional FB account allows me to network. And since clients talking my work and results are vital to my survival as a business, I am all for it.

There has to be a line drawn here. Mine is thick, glow in the dark and blinking.

Other peoples lines are perforated. And that’s where the problems start.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Honestly I was with you when I originally saw this popping up. Like “meh, who cares? I never was friendly with any of those worker drones in the front of my classes.”

But the fact they are starting a legal battle over it makes me realize that these horribly underpaid, overworked individuals are adding extra stress in their life because they feel like they are helping students in a certain way and are now fighting to keep it.

And you won’t hire them for a teaching position… why?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 WTH!

I am from the US. With these hard economic times we currently face are you telling me that people are spending their unemployment checks on XBoxs and Playstations so they can keep the kids busy while drinking their boxed wine, and Pabst Blue Ribbon? I thought they were supposed to be looking for work? /sarc

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

*insert witty funny comment about Senator Jane Cunningham never having a trusted teacher growing up*

And then there is the wonderful catch-22 I can see in this.
A student in a crisis reaches out to an adult to report someone doing something horrible happening to them, and the teacher saves the kid by reporting it and then goes to jail because it was a Facebook message.

Dallas IT Guy says:

Unintended consequences

The wording is too vague. What the legislation, and some of the commenters, seem to ignore is that there can be more than just a “Teacher – Student” relationship between a teacher and student. My father was a teacher at my school. My aunt and cousins were teachers at schools that I could have attended. There are other, perfectly acceptable, relationships that could exist, and this law criminalizes communications in those contexts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Unintended consequences

I lived in a very small town. Teachers were mostly old family friends. Their kids were friends of mine (one still is). Sometimes your teacher may also be your baseball coach (for non-school sponsored leagues), rent you the building that your crappy garage band practices in, or co-worker at a separate job. I had a teacher that worked with me at Pizza Hut during the summer and was my brother’s coach for a fall-league baseball team.

Did we use Facebook? No, I’m old and didn’t have that crap then (and don’t have one now either). Would it have been nice to have that one guy on Facebook? Yep. I would certainly have learned more. I was an incredibly shy and brilliant kid, but I didn’t understand the class he taught. I sometimes stayed after for help, but always felt embarrassed by it, even though I know there’s no reason to feel that way now. The fall-ball schedule could have been posted so that we wouldn’t have to repeatedly refer to a piece of paper that kept getting lost. I could have pinged him and asked if the new schedule was up rather than having to actually call the store and take time away from the employees and myself (I HATED calling for my schedule).

This law is stupid.

CD (profile) says:

In my opinion, the Common Sense rule applies here. There is no reason for a teacher to have students as Facebook friends. That is a personal site and it not affiliated with the school. If they want to have a social environment in school, use SharePoint or some other type of software that has administrative oversight. That removes any possibility of accidental slipping of personal information about the teacher getting to the students via some Facebook Privacy change. Which seems to happen often.

I think a larger issue is that they, as teachers and role models, are adding children as friends on Facebook, Google +, etc. against the sites Terms of Use. If these students are under 13, the teachers are encouraging them to ‘break’ the law when their minds are still impressionable.

Quoted from Reuters:
“Plaintiffs have used and are using non-work-related social networking sites as an important avenue for contact with students, both during emergencies and for everyday educational issues, such as when a student has difficulty with a classroom assignment or identifying bullying,” the lawsuit states
End Quote

Shouldn’t the contact be with the PARENTS of the children. If something is wrong with the school or the child, the parent should be contacted.

Another reason to have an open forum instead of personal social media. If one student is having a problem, there is going to be another with that or a similar problem. If the issue is brought up in open forum, the point will be offered to others and even help them understand on their own.

Student/Teacher email/face to face would be sufficient for bullying. Anyone remember the Facebook bullying of children lately?!

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Again, I think this is missing the point. We’re not talking about teachers and students conversing like old pals on Facebook. We’re talking about teachers having the students as friends so they can make announcements that will show up in the student’s feed.

Would SharePoint or something more ‘professional’ work? Probably. Would students actually go check those? Probably not. The allure of Facebook for teachers is that the students are already on it a lot. Announcements sent thru this space are almost guaranteed to be seen.

If you want something a bit separated from the normal friend-to-friend access, maybe the teachers could make ‘business’ pages and have the announcements and such go out thru that.

And for the ‘accident slippage’, I have that risk all the time. I have the boys in my Scout Troop (who are old enough to have a page) as friends. However, as soon as I add a new one, I put them in a group that has no access to my ‘regular’ posts.

“Shouldn’t the contact be with the PARENTS of the children. If something is wrong with the school or the child, the parent should be contacted.”

As a parent, I would not want to be notified every time there’s a change in the homework assignment… or every time something changes in the project work.

And, as a Parent, I appreciate the help in giving my girls a place to practice responsibility in keeping up-to-date in a push-style announcement system. I see this style of “log in to get the announcements we send out” more and more at work… I think children could use some getting-used-to of that.

And there’s nothing to stop me as a parent from being a friend of the teacher and being kept in the same loop. Everyone who already uses the tool will continue to use the same tool and get more out of it.

“Student/Teacher email/face to face would be sufficient for bullying. Anyone remember the Facebook bullying of children lately?!”

This is the kind of “OMG SOMEONE’S FEELINGS MIGHT GET HURT!!! HIDE THE KIDS!!!” reaction that has resulted in this kind of legislation in the first place. How about we use the tools and if there’s a problem, we address the people and not the tool? You know… for once.

CD (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I agree. A Page or group on Facebook would be better than Friend requests.

I do not have kids, but I fail to see how sheltering them and trying to hide things from them actually helps them.

To clarify, the Parental contact was referring to the Emergency Contact part of the quote. If I had a kid, unless there were other motivators, I would not want to know about each and ever homework assignment or change there of.

Anonymous Coward says:

talk about reaching ...

I saw the bill was named “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act” so I was wondering “what happened to Amy Hestir to prompt this bill”


First of all, I feel sorry for the woman, but no law or laws would have protected her in that situation. However, her parents being involved may have (don’t know enough about the story to know)

Second, her ENTIRE CASE HAS NOTHING *NOTHING* to do with facebook or the internet. So where the F&*# do they get off?

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: talk about reaching ...

“The problem, of course, is that the new law — usually poorly written and passed in a fit of hysteria — is too late to apply to the case it was designed for. But it does then apply to everyone else.

Laws named after crime victims and dead people are usually a bad idea. They play more to emotion than reason. But they’re disturbingly predictable, especially when they come after the death of a child.”
from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/11/caylees-law-casey-anthony-_n_893953.html

The quote includes some additional links which make for some other great example of why “dead kids make bad laws”. http://reason.com/archives/2011/05/24/dead-kids-make-bad-laws

Maybe a new regulation that new laws cannot be brought about until after a cool-down period. That’s the stated reason for waiting periods on handgun purchases… maybe the same idea here?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: talk about reaching ...

There is more to the bill than stopping Facebook friending.

They needed to adjust some statue of limitations and other things. What disturbed me more was the fact the person she claims abused her… is still teaching.

This is the problem with “kitchen sink” bills. Lets load everything in, then we can get more stuff done and sneak other stuff by. because if your against this your obviously supporting the right of teachers to sexually abuse their students.

I think the next bill passed for every level of Government in this country needs to be the 1 bill 1 thing act.
Your bill can address and fix exactly 1 thing.
Stop making spots to stuff more into, stop slipping in unrelated amendments to unpopular bills/laws to make them worse.
It might generate more “work” for the poor legislature, but then it means they might have a clue what the bill they vote on is actually going to do in the end.

Credit Department (user link) says:

Social Networking - Who Needs It?

I think this whole social networking thing is starting to get out of hand. I used to belong(past tense) to MySpace. But I was getting friends requests from people that I don’t even know and sometimes live in other countries. And no, they were not bots – but real people. Merely friends of friends of friends.

So sorry, but I still like a bit of privacy in my life. Don’t need to have friends on Facebook or MySpace that I have never met or even chatted with online.

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