Missouri teachers sue to end ban on private messaging to students

John Moe Aug 22, 2011

The Missouri State Teachers Association has filed suit to block parts of a law signed last month by Governor Jay Nixon. The bill was designed to protect students from abuse. It has provisions against sex offenders serving on the school board and ways that students can report abusive situations.

But, says Ars Technica:
the provision that has attracted national attention–and a legal challenge from the MSTA–because it instructs school districts to adopt new policies concerning student-teacher communications. Starting in January, teachers may not “establish, maintain, or use a nonwork-related Internet site” that allows the posting of information that’s available only to the teacher and a particular student.

This could be interpreted as banning any teacher from using Facebook or Twitter at all since those sites have the capacity for sending direct messages. The teachers group says it’s a free speech issue.

The MSTA’s lawsuit notes several problems with the law. For example, there’s no exception for teachers whose own children are in the same district. Taken literally, the law seems to ban such parents from sending private messages to their own children. Similarly, teachers who are also youth leaders in church could not use sites such as Facebook to communicate with students about church-related activities.

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