MSTA Aims to Protect Teachers' Social Media Rights

7 years 2 months 3 weeks ago Thursday, August 25 2011 Aug 25, 2011 Thursday, August 25, 2011 4:59:00 PM CDT August 25, 2011 in News
By: Jessica Sibert
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COLUMBIA - High school students and teachers from all around Missouri had the chance on Thursday to weigh in on the lawsuit Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) has filed against the state's new 'Facebook Law.'

The law, also known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, restricts private or exclusive online communication between students and teachers and will go into effect next week. School districts will then enforce all Missouri public school teachers to purge their Facebook of any student 'friends.' 

Aurora Meyer, the Online Community Coordinator for MSTA, spoke on members' behalfs during a Google + Hangout. She addressed any comments or questions the students and teachers had regarding MSTA's decision to file a lawsuit. The hearing was Wednesday, which means the judge's ruling could be heard as early as Friday. 

Meyer and other members of MSTA believe the law hurts teachers' ability to stay in touch with students and help them out when needed-- either with homework or personal problems. She also believes the law is way too broad and challenges teachers' rights to free speech. 

The law only restricts private online communication. According to Missouri State Senator Jane Cunningham, the sponsor of the law, wall posts on Facebook or in any other public forum are okay. The law came about as a way to prevent sexual misconduct or abuse by teachers. 

Meyer said many teachers are okay with institutioning a social media policy (and many already have one enforced), but believe this law may be going too far. 

"We all can agree that school districts should have a social media policy, but for example, we have a small K-8 district who doesn't have the funds for an email server so their district uses hotmail as their district email. Well, under this law, that's not allowed. And yet they can't afford the implementation of an email server."

She said reasons like that and more are why this law seriously needs to be questioned. 

If MSTA succeeds in delaying the law's start date, Meyer said the next step would be to ask for a ruling of constitutionality from the judge.  

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