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Posted at 04:00 AM ET, 09/27/2011

State revisits nation’s first teacher-student ‘Facebook law’

Missouri became the first state in the nation this year to put a law on the books barring public school teachers and students from having private contact on Facebook and other electronic media — all in an effort to prevent sexual misconduct. Now lawmakers have changed their minds — sort of.

The measure, part of a broader law signed in July by Gov. Jay Nixon, was supposed to go into effect in late August but a judge blocked its implementation after a lawsuit was filed by the Missouri Teachers Association and teachers and students complained that it was unfair.

The judge said the measure would have a “chilling effect” on free speech.

Nixon asked the legislature in a special September session to repeal the part of the law that dealt with teacher-student private electronic communications, and, on Friday, it did, the Associated Press reported.

But lawmakers also wrote into the legislation that each school district in the state would have to address the issue and come up with its own rules for regulating teacher-student online communications.

Nixon hasn’t yet decided whether to sign the repeal legislation, saying he wants to see how other districts are handling the issue, Education Week reported.

The broader law, passed this past spring, was named after a woman who, now in her 40s, testified a few years ago about being forced into a sexual relationship with a teacher when she was in middle school.

The law included a section to stop school employees found to have sexually abused students from resigning and getting hired by other districts, the AP reported. The judge who ruled on the case left standing the part of the law that requires schools to share with other districts information about teachers found to have sexually abused students.

The issue of online communications between students and teachers is a subject school districts can’t ignore — though such broad restrictions as imposed in this bill on the communications between teachers and students are counter-productive. They won’t solve the problem they are intended to fix, and in the process, will serve to shut down communications between teachers and students.

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By  |  04:00 AM ET, 09/27/2011

 
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