Friday, August 05, 2011

Musings on the Missouri Facebook Law

On July 14, 2011, Missouri passed into law The Amy Hestir Student Protection Act.

According to the HuffingtonPost, this law's being nicknamed the Facebook Law because of two key sentences:
No teacher shall establish, maintain, or use a work-related internet site unless such site is available to school administrators and the child's legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian. 

No teacher shall establish, maintain, or use a nonwork-related internet site which allows exclusive access with a current or former student.
 The bulk of the law may be beneficial, but these two inclusions are TERRIBLE.  It shouldn't take a state or federal law to lay out what professional ethics and common sense should cover.  Putting it into law allows Missouri to arrest teachers who violate it, which might sound good.  Prosecuting teachers who have sex with their students is a good thing, yeah?  But we already have laws against that sort of thing.  And adding this law wouldn't prevent student/teacher sex.  It would only restrict the freedoms of other teachers, who are only trying to reach the kids where they live -- in cyberspace.

From my 40-something perspective, kids already have trouble with appropriate language in adult situations, bad spelling from texting, an inconceivably naive notion of privacy online, and very little respect for professions (like teaching) that used to command it.  (And I lay some blame on parents who eschew their responsibility for disciplining their children and demonstrate disrespect for educational professionals in front of their kids.)  The teachers who take on the next generation of children need new tools, new approaches, and all the support they can get.

I would much rather see Missouri issue a requirement that schools receiving public funds must have and enforce a code of ethics that includes appropriate online behavior between teachers and students and administration/parental access to cyber conversations as requested.  And leave it at that.  If you're in violation of your workplace's code of ethics, it could be a firing offense. 

It's more important to nurture self policing via a commitment to ethics than add more laws to the books.  Teachers should not be treated as criminals before they even meet your kids.

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