Friday, August 19, 2011

Missouri Teachers Sue State Over Facebook Ban

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2011 at 4:13 PM

Teachers find Missouri's new social media law a bit stifling.
  • Teachers find Missouri's new social media law a bit stifling.
The Missouri State Teachers Association today filed suit this afternoon aiming to block part of a new law set to go into effect August 28 that would prohibit educators from interacting with students via social media.

The suit filed in Cole County Circuit Court on behalf of the MSTA and four Missouri teachers names as Governor Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster as defendants.

Attorneys for the teachers argue that Senate Bill 54 effectively prohibits the plaintiffs from interacting with students via Twitter, Facebook, and potentially prohibits other communication sites used by teachers such as BlackBoard and Virtual Classroom.

Todd Fuller, spokesman for MSTA, tells Daily RFT that his association felt pressed to act now before the law went into effect.

"We're getting more and more teachers concerned about how this would affect their ability to do their jobs," says Fuller. "We just heard this week from a small K-8 district that has no email server. They use Hotmail, and their IT manager is also the school custodian. Senate Bill 54 would completely take away their ability to interact with students and parents."

MSTA lawsuit contends that the part of SB54 that prohibits contact with current and former students under the age of 18 is so "vague and overbroad" that it "chills" educators' first amendment rights of speech, association, religion, collective bargaining and other constitutional rights by school teachers.

Nixon signed the bill into law last month. Known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, the law is mostly aimed at keeping sexual predators out of schools. Jane Cunningham (R - Chesterfield), the sponsor of the bill, has defended the social networking component of her legislation.

""We are in no way trying to stop communication between educators and students," Cunningham told Fox News earlier this month. "The social media aspect comes in because we're finding that it's an early pathway to sexual misconduct."

MSTA's lawsuit seeks only to block the enforcement of the social media provision.

"Our goal is to get a temporary injunction against it, and then get the entire social-networking provision thrown out of the law," says Fuller.

Skip to the next page to view the lawsuit.

Related content: Missouri Teachers Seek Clarity on New Law Prohibiting Them From "Friending" Students

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