Court Finds Law Blocking Teachers From Friending Students 'Staggering'; Blocks Implementation

from the oh-look,-there's-a-first-amendment-after-all dept

There was quite an uproar after Missouri passed a law to ban teachers from communicating with current or former students on social networking platforms like Facebook. It didn't take long before teachers sued, and it was even faster for the court to issue an injunction blocking the implementation of the law, noting that it violated the First Amendment (thanks to Eric Goldman for the pointer). The judge made quick work of it. Here's the relevant portion (and the full ruling is embedded below):
Section §163.069.4 RSMo implicates the rights of Plaintiffs protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Missouri Constitution in that it prohibits all teachers from using any non-work-related social networking sites which allow exclusive access with current and former students. Even if a complete ban on certain forms of communication between certain individuals could be construed as content neutral and only a reasonable restriction on "time, place and manner," the breadth of the prohibition is staggering. The Court finds at based upon the evidence adduced at the preliminary injunction hearing, social networking is extensively used by educators. It is often the primary, if not sole manner, of communications between the Plaintiffs and their students. Examination of the statute indicates that it would prohibit all teachers from using any non-work-related social networking sites which allow exclusive access with current and former students. It clearly prohibits communication between family members and their teacher parents using these types of sites. The Court finds that the statute would have a chilling effect on speech.

Given the fundamental nature of the right implicated, a "chilling effect" constitutes an immediate and irreperable harm sufficient to support a preliminary injunction.
Nice to see some courts willing to recognize that a First Amendment violation is irreparable harm. Too bad not all courts agree.

This isn't the end for the law. It's just an injunction barring it from being implemented until a full trial can be heard on the merits, but it sure sounds as if the court is pretty skeptical about the legality of the law as a whole.

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  1. icon
    Nathan F (profile), 29 Aug 2011 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    As you should be. If your child is under 13 technically they shouldn't even be on Facebook to begin with.

    Should you be concerned if an adult teacher wanted to be a Facebook friend with your children? I don't know, how about you get involved with your child's life and whats going on at school. Go meet his/her teacher at a PTA Meeting and get to know the teacher and decide if you think any communication needs closer monitoring. In short, take an active role in your kids upbringing and interactions with others.

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