The Missouri Facebook Crackdown Inciting Anger

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

The Missouri Facebook Crackdown Inciting Anger

The contention surrounding Missouri’s latest law that it is now illegal for teachers to be “friends” with students on any social networking sites that allow for private communications is quickly gaining speed, particularly as Missourians prepare to go back to school in a few days.

This September, in addition to getting new dry erase markers, creating new lesson plans and making sure SMART Boards are in tip top condition, teachers are tasked with scouring through their Facebook friend lists to make sure that they are in accordance with the new law. The law was created after an Associated Press investigation found 87 Missouri teachers had lost their licenses between 2001 and 2005 because of sexual misconduct, some of which involved exchanging explicit online messages with students, according to an MSNBC report.

But many teachers are speaking out against this act, noting that this law precludes them from getting through to their students on the very technology platform that kids use every day.

One English teacher in Missouri, Lucinda Lawson, argued that private messages on these social networking sites give "truly supportive teachers the chance to get help for them when they're in dangerous or compromising situations.”

Another teacher, Alan Maddock, wrote in an email to Gov. Jay Nixon in before he signed the legislation, "I am not a pervert and don't wish to be treated as one. I am very responsible with my Facebook pages and don't appreciate being assumed to be a danger to my students.”

Despite teacher concerns, starting Aug. 28 the law will take effect and will require local school districts to create written policies by January that outline "appropriate use of electronic media such as text messaging and Internet sites for both instructional and personal purposes."

Last week, I played it safe with this law, contending that while it was “a little intense” to make Facebook friending illegal, the act had a lot of merit as well. 

This week, I am more confident in asserting that this act will do more harm than good. It is so difficult nowadays for teachers to make an impact on students, particularly with the rise of distractions thanks to the Internet age. If students spend all their time on Facebook and Twitter, then that is where education needs to head. If students feel more comfortable sending their teacher a Facebook message about a homework question then asking it out loud in front of their peers than they should have that option. And if teachers want to be able to post educational reference links on their wall so that their students can get even more help, they should be allowed.

When you cast a dark shadow over helpful social networking sites, you take away a great educational resource for students.

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