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Missouri Facebook Law Challenged by Teachers

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 24, 2011 6:46 AM

Missouri teachers are not going to lose their Facebook privileges without a fight. The Missouri State Teachers Association has filed a lawsuit against the new Missouri Facebook law, which prohibits private chats and online communications between student and teachers.

The Facebook law, otherwise known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, was implemented to curb sexual abuse of students by teachers.

But, the Teachers Association claims that the law goes too far. And, that it is unconstitutionally violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

One motivation behind the lawsuit is that some teachers believe that the law is overbroad. Some teachers say that the law would make it illegal for schoolteachers to even communicate with their own children privately, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Teachers Association is asking for the law not to take effect this week as originally planned.

Jane Cunningham, the state senator who sponsored the new law, says that she is willing to work with teachers about broadening the language so that schoolteachers can privately communicate with their own children, The Wall Street Journal reports.

It is important to note that the law does not completely prohibit teachers from communicating with students online, reports The Wall Street Journal

For example, a teacher can publicly post something on their Facebook wall so that third parties can see the communication. And, teachers could still text students so long as they also send a copy of the text to the parent or to the school administration, according to Cunningham.

So, is the law unconstitutional? It could be, if it's overstepping its bounds and infringing upon teachers' rights. And, at the least, it's probably creating a dilemma for Missouri schoolteachers who would like to use online resources.

In this digital age, teachers are finding that using online sites, including Facebook, can be important teaching tools.

Whether or not Missouri's Facebook law will take into effect is still unclear at this stage. Though, the Missouri State Teachers Association's lawsuit might delay the bill taking effect, especially since it points out some of the flaws in the law's wording.

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