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Teachers, Students Fight To Be Facebook Friends 286

Posted by samzenpus
from the teachers-pet-has-a-friend-request dept.
An anonymous reader writes "State Governor Jay Nixon recently signed Senate Bill 54, making it illegal for students and teachers to be friends online as of later this month. Now, a Missouri teachers group is fighting the state's new law that prohibits them from being Facebook friends with their students by filing a lawsuit. From the article: 'The Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) filed a lawsuit on Friday, challenging a new law. MSTA is specifically asking the Circuit Court of Cole County to determine the constitutionality of the law’s social media portion.'"
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Teachers, Students Fight To Be Facebook Friends

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  • Anybody else? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 22, 2011 @04:08AM (#37165704)

    Anybody else feel like this is an incursion on freedom of speech?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by izomiac (815208)
      Not so much freedom of speech as freedom of assembly. Either way it's a first amendment issue.
      • by lionchild (581331)

        SB54 doesn't actually restrict a teacher from assembly with current and former students, as teachers can still have 'fan' pages, which are fully open. What it restricts is a teacher from having communications with a student that are hidden from parents and administration. Social Networking where there is no private communication between student and teacher is perfectly acceptable. Thus, they're allowed to 'publicly assemble.' If there is a matter that a student doesn't want to disucuss in a public setti

    • there's "friending" and there's "acquaintancing". And there's "making up a group to share photos and stuff from our drama/gym/science/photo... club.

      • by vlm (69642)

        And there's "making up a group to share photos and stuff from our drama/gym/science/photo... club.

        My former college ham radio club has a "wait and see" attitude toward having the academic adviser join their FB group, or not. Really weird situation.

        Then there's my former employer, where a former coworker was hired to teach some classes I had just taken at night school before I finished off my degree. Luckily he was never my instructor; that would have been awkward enough without being legally required to "unfriend" each other on linkedin.

        One of my cousins is a former public school teacher... should she

    • Anybody else feel like this is an incursion on freedom of speech?

      Why, does it stop you from mumbling when you're browsing Facebook? ...

    • Anybody else feel like this is an incursion on freedom of speech?

      It'd take some fairly tortured logic-chopping to argue otherwise; but the "Won't somebody think of the Children?" card is in play, so the court may or may not be sharpening its best logic choppers as we speak...

    • Re:Anybody else? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Monday August 22, 2011 @07:06AM (#37166218) Journal

      Actually i'm torn on this. Yes freedom of speech is great but as someone who was hit on by a not very attractive female teacher at 14 as well as watched a friend trade sex for grades with said teacher there is actually sometimes where you DO need to "think of the children" because one forgets how much power a teacher can wield over a student.

      So lets not lose sight of the fact WHY bans like this have been put it place. it isn't like these school boards have gone "Oh its Tuesday, we need to be douchebags" it is because time and time again we have seen both male and female teachers use their position to have sex with their underage students.

      While there are plenty of truly awesome teachers out there (Thanks Ms Edwards for being a great teacher that inspired my lifelong love of science!) there are also some VERY sick puppies out there that are using the profession for their own sexual gratification. So I'd say this is one of the VERY few cases where one actually does need to "think of the children" when weighing and deciding this.

      • by iamhassi (659463)
        This. Kinda surprised it took this long to get to the point: the law is saying high school children can't be friends their teachers on Facebook or any other form of unmonitored electronic communication like texting. Um, ya, makes sense to me, considering all the teachers having sex with high school student stories that have come out in recent years. Any law that helps prevent teachers sleeping with children is alright with me. Somehow I graduated high school before Facebook existed and I'm not sitting
        • Ok. but you can turn that around. A child who used to post lots on FB starts to post out of character things. A teacher with experience and training may see this as signs of abuse.
          A story then - This teacher for the purposes of the post, was always too busy in class to pick up on "the" signs as the ADHD child on the other side of the room need looking after constantly. Perchance in the wee hours of the night, whilst marking papers, the teacher saw an old post from the student timed at 2am. That's too late
      • by GooberToo (74388)

        Actually i'm torn on this. Yes freedom of speech is great but as someone who was hit on by a not very attractive female teacher at 14 as well as watched a friend trade sex for grades with said teacher there is actually sometimes where you DO need to "think of the children" because one forgets how much power a teacher can wield over a student.

        Oh bullshit. This is possibly one of the dumbest things I've read here in a while - which says a lot!

        You mean people should think of the children but YOU can't think of yourself and your friend? You see, this is one of those cases where you publicly admit you're really fucking stupid.If you can't be bothered to think of yourself or your friend, then by your own admission, no one else should be thinking of yourself or your friend.

        By your own admission, the situation was of so little consequence that on one s

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gsmalleus (886346)
        I worked with a teacher who ended up having an inappropriate relationship with a student. None of the communication between the two happened on facebook or email, or even phone calls. It was all done with hand written notes. So lets ban pencils and paper from schools. Digital communication is so much easier to trace. I would rather have a log of emails exchanged, or Facebook conversations than having handwritten notes.

        I myself am an educator, and work with multiple school districts. I have worked i
  • by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Monday August 22, 2011 @04:16AM (#37165730) Journal
    I would welcome a law that would forbid anyone from entering my e-mail address (and any other personal data) on a web site without my permission.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday August 22, 2011 @04:28AM (#37165754)
    It must be pretty tough if your teacher is your dad, uncle, or even older sibling. Or if you belong to some sports club or similar and everyone else is a friend.

    Also what's the proposed legal situation if a student and/or the teacher uses a psedonym and is unaware that their friend is a teacher/pupil?

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday August 22, 2011 @04:35AM (#37165770)

      Tough? Hell, that law is currently a godsend for kids of teachers. "Sorry, mom, I can't have you in my facebook friends, it's the law".

      I bet a lot of kids would kill for that opportunity!

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      It must be pretty tough if your teacher is your dad, uncle, or even older sibling.

      I'm pretty sure most schools have rules prohibiting students from being taught by their own relatives for most core classes to avoid favortism. When I was in school, kids of teachers were always in someone else's class for the grade their parent taught.

      • I knew the kid of one of the math teachers who was in his mother's classes as normally scheduled for his track. When his track went over to a different teacher's classes, so did he. In other words, the school treated him no differently than his peers.

        That said, it was a very small school, having a student body of maybe 100 students from grades 9-12. As such, they might not have had the resources to perform this particular segregation. As I recall, there was only ever one teacher teaching any given class

        • by Chrisq (894406)
          Certainly when I was at school we had Maths teacher who was head of department and taught all A-level students including her son. Nobody could have accused her of favouritism she worked him harder than the rest of us!
      • by vlm (69642)

        It must be pretty tough if your teacher is your dad, uncle, or even older sibling.

        I'm pretty sure most schools have rules prohibiting students from being taught by their own relatives for most core classes to avoid favortism. When I was in school, kids of teachers were always in someone else's class for the grade their parent taught.

        Not where I lived, not beyond grade school. You're The chemistry teacher's daughter, you're in her class, that's just how it is. Same thing happened to The history teacher's daughter. I suppose if we had five chemistry teachers it would have been different than having only one. Everyone acted professionally and it all turned out well, the only noteworthy exception is I did not flirt with either attractive young lady as it would have been super awkward to do that in front of her parent.

        Speaking of awkwar

      • by digitig (1056110)
        I didn't see anything that said this only related to teachers of core classes.
      • by pokerdad (1124121)

        I'm pretty sure most schools have rules prohibiting students from being taught by their own relatives for most core classes to avoid favortism. When I was in school, kids of teachers were always in someone else's class for the grade their parent taught.

        When I was in grade 7 my class was taught English by my mother and math by the father of one of my classmates.

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Monday August 22, 2011 @04:33AM (#37165764)
    as if being friends in real life was an impossibility, forget facebook the human race survived for millions of years before the internet came along so you can survive and communicate with your friends without facebook too, give it a try, exchange phone numbers, meet for coffee, play a game of pingpong or pool, or a board-game like chess or checkers or dominoes...
    • as if being friends in real life was an impossibility, forget facebook the human race survived for millions of years before the internet came along so you can survive and communicate with your friends without facebook too

      Yes, you are being uber lame. Why edit stuff on Github when I just drive to the author's house, take a look at what he's working on, and suggest changes in person?

      In the real world, my wife texted me to ask me to pick something up at the store on my way home. In what way is that morally inferior to a phone call?

      And finally, why are you posting to a bulletin on the Internet instead of finding a topical corkboard in your local college student union and conducting a lively debate on it there?

  • OK its even worse (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Monday August 22, 2011 @04:36AM (#37165772)
    The bill says [zdnet.com]:

    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.

    For a teacher who works in a small town for a few decades that will be a large number of people they can never friend on facebook. It could even prevent someone friending their husband or wife. A teacher/pupil can have an age difference of four years, which a few years after they younger one graduates will seem an insignificant difference.

    • by mapkinase (958129)

      Obviously "who is still minor" is omitted from "former student" categorization.

    • Teachers cannot establish, maintain, or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and the childâ(TM)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.

      For a teacher who works in a small town for a few decades that will be a large number of people they can never friend on facebook. It could even prevent someone friending their husband or wife. A te

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      Znet conveniently cut out the very next sentence where is says "former student" only applies to those still under 18, meaning you can't friend the 13 yr old that leaves middle school to go to high school. Can't trust reporters, they only believe in sensationalism, you have to read the bill yourself.
  • In Australia, teachers aren't allowed (and this is a rule rather than a law) to contact you electronically using any means other than your school-supplied mailbox. From a teacher's point of view it works out quite well, because they can often be harassed by students (anonymously, of course) and sometimes visa-versa. I do admit that it would be hard for relatives who are teachers/students in the same state, but I think that is a bit of a corner case and unlikely to be pursued by the government. This bill see

    • This bill seems to be simply to protect one party in the case online relationships between students and teachers become abusive/a threat to privacy

      Why not have a law that prevents teachers and students from meeting face-to-face outside school hours except for designated school events?

      Oh right because that would be a clear violation of peoples right to freedom of assembly, it is just politicians sometimes forget peoples rights exist online.

      This law is about pedo witch hunting. Unfortunately though, sexually abusive teachers existed long before the internet, and using "shotgun" laws like this isn't going to stop them.

      P.S. Hell, here in Australia the NSW

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      And the teachers aren't suing?
      • I suspect they ignore it.

        I have friends who are teachers in the private sector and either they don't have the same ruling as the public schools or he doesn't care (his students have a fan page for him on Facebook).

  • by Loki_1929 (550940) on Monday August 22, 2011 @04:38AM (#37165780) Journal

    I can't begin to imagine a less defensible violation of the first amendment. Here we have a law which directly prohibits the free association of citizens for no justifiable reason. The prohibition does nothing to prevent inappropriate contact between students and teachers (nullifying any possible compelling reason to uphold this unconstitutional garbage) while directly attacking a right so critical to basic human liberty that the founding fathers chose to spell it out in plain English for all the world to see in the Bill of Rights. The first amendment was crafted specifically to ensure that exactly this kind of thing would never happen in this country.

    Not even in the 9th Circus would this kind of absurdity pass the smell test. Assuming this makes it to the SCOTUS, the lawyer defending it is going to find the justices incredulously shaking their heads at his every word.

    • i am kind of reminded of a friend of mine who taught special needs children, who he also took for swimming lessons. He made a point of making sure his hands were visible and that he was never alone with any of the children. As you can imagine this was to protect him from the children rather than the other way around.

      Now it seems to me that any interaction between a teacher and student on facebook is relatively public and observable. It is certainly more public than many other places where students and teach

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      Not a violation because we are talking about adults talking to children. No, we do not have the right to talk to children that are not our own children.
  • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Monday August 22, 2011 @05:12AM (#37165864)
    Expect to see child kicked out of class due to Facebook posts.

    And in the "grown up" world, a person who brings a camera to any event now ruins the night as far as I'm concerned. Social web and beer doesn't mix.
  • See, now teachers have a good reason to sign up for Google+

    They won't go to jail.

  • by lexsird (1208192) on Monday August 22, 2011 @05:49AM (#37165966)

    If teachers are some how unfit to communicate with students online, then shouldn't they be unfit to communicate with them IN PERSON AT SCHOOL?

    It seems that it would be intelligent that teachers should welcome a chance to be let into the social circles of students online. This is where they could influence them in a positive way. For example the case of cyber bullying. If there is a teacher in the circle of friends, wouldn't this hamper cyber bullying? Don't we have enough disconnect from the youth of the country as it is? We have both parents trying to work 2 jobs each trying to pay the bills, this leaves kids disconnected to a point of being criminally negligent.

    It's ok that we we let kids be influenced by Rap music, MTV, and free run of the Internet with all the filth involved in these elements, but we balk at a teacher being around? It sounds like we need drug testing for politicians.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Don't we have enough disconnect from the youth of the country as it is?

      No, one of the central goals of the public education system is to create/enforce/encourage a strongly classist / caste oriented society.
      The problem is the collision between their twisted goal and reality.

  • by cvtan (752695) on Monday August 22, 2011 @06:03AM (#37166010)
    Can you friend a teacher in your school that does not have you in any of his/her classes?
    • by Chrisq (894406)

      Can you friend a teacher in your school that does not have you in any of his/her classes?

      When I was at school, yes certainly. In primary school we had one teacher for everything, changing each year. There were four teachers per class so we only got taught by a quarter. In secondary school probably most teachers taught me at some time, but there were optional subjects that I never took. I had no dealings with the cookery teachers, most music teachers (it was compulsory for 3 years), and a few others.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Can you friend a teacher in your school that does not have you in any of his/her classes?

      Also don't forget advisors, and the concept of groups vs friends in social websites. Where I went to school, "academic clubs" required an academic adviser, and the AA was always a teacher in a related field. The computer club had a math teacher, who also advised the chess club. The science club (mostly we went on cool field trips and listened to interesting speakers) was advised by the chemistry teacher. Take a wild guess which teacher taught the Spanish language immersion club, which was really more of

    • by iamhassi (659463)

      Can you friend a teacher in your school that does not have you in any of his/her classes?

      No you may not, and I think it applies to teachers even other schools until you're 18

  • by DanielRavenNest (107550) on Monday August 22, 2011 @06:22AM (#37166064)

    The United States Supreme Court held in NAACP v. Alabama that the freedom of association is an essential part of the Freedom of Speech because, in many cases, people can engage in effective speech only when they join with others:

    "We hold that the immunity from state scrutiny of membership lists which the Association claims on behalf of its members is here so related to the right of the members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in so doing as to come within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment" ( NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson, 357 US 449 - Supreme Court 1958 )

  • Unless the teacher agrees to let every student be their friend, I can see how it would create problems if the teacher was selective. I would find it easier as a teacher if there was a policy keeping me from accepting several dozen friend requests per year ("Sorry, Billy, I can't accept your Farmville invitation, state rules.") While the ban probably wasn't a good idea in hindsight, I can imagine a thoughtful person supporting Missouri in the policy, and can imagine a lot of teachers groaning if it's reve
  • by Nimey (114278) on Monday August 22, 2011 @06:56AM (#37166176) Homepage Journal

    was a teacher who had an inappropriate sexual relationship with his student.

    Thirty years ago, well before the time of social media.

  • How is this law "thinking of the children" exactly? I've heard of many teachers friending their whole class so that students could post questions and get help on their homework.
  • By January 1, 2012, every school district must develop a written policy concerning teacher-student communication and employee-student communications. Each policy must include appropriate oral and nonverbal personal communication, which may be combined with sexual harassment policies, and appropriate use of electronic media as described in the act, including social networking sites. 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. Former student is defined as any person who was at one time a student at the school at which the teacher is employed and who is eighteen years of age or less and who has not graduated.

    unless I am reading it wrong it sounds to me like every school must adopt a policy concerning facebook and other social networking sites, but it does not say that students and teachers cannot be friends. what it does say is that a teacher cannot have a nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student meaning that they cannot run there own website that allows them to communicate exclusively with a student. Is there something I am missing here?

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      Facebook is a "nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student. " so a teacher can not be friends with students on Facebook. The law does say teachers can have a work related website as long as school officials and legal guardians have access, so a private social networking website for the school is possible. The law makes a lot of sense but it seems some people are taking it out of context and making it sound evil.
  • So I think this law is going a little overboard, but a lot of new teachers (who are in their early-to-mid twenties) don't realize that, by friending their students, they're giving their students access to all those embarrassing drunken pictures taken of them while they're in college--I've heard stories from my mother, a teacher, who is on Facebook (unfortunately) but who doesn't accept friend requests from students, but who works with many younger teachers who do. IMO, teachers should be trained that it's a
    • except that the teachers are gov't employees...

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      +1, insightful. This law protects teachers more than it does students, teachers don't have to worry about students finding something they shouldn't and being fired for it or being accused of something they didn't do. Not sure why teachers are fighting something that protects them, it's like (car analogy time!) suing to have airbags removed from all vehicles.
  • I was hoping to make a "Well, there's still G+!" joke here, but apparently the law doesn't single out Facebook by name, it just says "social networking sites."
    This is looking to be an emerging rule in schools in general though, so I don't see the problem.
    Two of my cousins are teachers, and both of them have told me that their local schools are enforcing similar rules.
  • Your parents aren't your friends (in real life), and neither are your teachers. There are more than sufficient ways for teachers to communicate with their students in a professional way. Facebook is not one of them.

    When the line becomes blurred bad things happen.

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