Missouri senate approves measure to repeal teacher "Facebook law"

The Missouri Senate approved a measure this week that would repeal a law that banned teachers in the state from certain uses of Facebook and other social media. Based on a state court's interpretation, the original law would have restricted teachers from using non-work related social networking sites that allow exclusive access to current or former students. In so doing, the law would have prohibited some teachers from interacting with their own children. The Missouri State Teachers Association filed suit against the State, seeking an injunction against the implementation of the state's first "Facebook law." In issuing the injunction, the court wrote "[s]ec.162.069.4 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 current and former students. Noting that the law "clearly prohibits" communication between students and their teacher parents using social media, the court concluded that the statute "would have a chilling effect on speech." In entering the injunction on August 26, the court prevented the state from enforcing the statute or in any way limiting or threatening public school teachers from using non-work related electronic communications. Thereafter, State Sen. Jane Cunningham (R) sponsored a measure that would repeal the provision, which is part of a broader law known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act. The bill would remove those provisions from the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act that would have stifled teachers' ability to use social media. Instead, the new law directs school districts to craft their own social media policies, by March 1, 2012, such that it would include "but not be limited to, the use of electronic media and other mechanisms to prevent improper communications between staff members and students." In a special session, the state senate approved the measure 33-0, setting the stage for a House vote.

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