Teachers cannot establish, maintain, or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and the child's legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian. Teachers also cannot have a nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student.Whoa. I would be so illegal in Missouri. Not only do I have students and former students as “friends” on Facebook, I have a domain name and website, plus my Edmodo account that the administration has no access to. Ouch.
The law was named for Amy Hestir, a girl who was molested by a teacher in Junior High School. While I can’t imagine what Amy went through, I’d like to note that Amy is now 40, and the incident took place before the Internet was a public entity. And Facebook, MySpace, and the idea of social networking was somewhere in the ether waiting to pop into the head of an unborn Tom Anderson. Yet the State of Missouri seems to think that having the same professional relationship online is somehow different than in person. Hey, are there any KIPP schools in Missouri? If so, doesn’t this sort of kill the idea of teachers giving students their cell phone numbers, because we all know that it can lead to inappropriate relationships…right KIPP?
Hopefully you could sense the dripping sarcasm in the first paragraph, because this stipulation of the Hestir Student Protection Act is pretty simply bad law. In fact, the law is incredible anti-teacher, as if the profession has reached some kind of ugly status of pervert. It’s another example of society not having the respect for education that is necessary for success. There are over seven million teachers in the United States and a couple of bad apples do not represent educators’ ability to keep professional relationships with the students they teach. But Missouri has decided to take the easy way out by trying to dictate the lives of educators who might want to use every tool possible to be a good teacher. Hell, who needs to punish the criminals when we can simply attempt to leash everyone.
And how does the state of Missouri enforce this law? If my Facebook is private, the public isn’t going to have any idea who my friends are, that is of course if the Missouri state government is going to hire China-esque online watchdogs to hunt for inappropriate student-teacher contact. And what of sites like Edmodo? Those are designed for education, but are controlled by the teacher. Are those illegal? And “former students”? Seriously? So I can’t have online contact with a former student (who could be in their 30’s) on the off chance that I might have an inappropriate relationship? I wonder who will be the first one to march up to the federal courthouse in Kansas City with a letter that says “Hey Missouri, mind your own fucking business”, and then proceed to use the Constitution completely destroy the word “former”.
In a time when government needs to do more to support teachers, Missouri has jumped on the bandwagon to vilify them. It’s just another example of society not taking the education of children seriously.
Apparently the law that originally had online contact banned has now been adjusted to let school districts develop their own protocols in dealing with teacher-student online relations. The Kansas City Star reported that Governor Jay Nixon signed the new bill on Friday. This doesn't necessarily change much, since nothing in the law prevents school districts from banning all online contact. Expect lawsuits, only now expect a lot of them.