Missouri Teacher Claims New Law Prevents Her From Friending Her Own Kids
Every law has the potential to create unintended consequences, but a Missouri teacher is claiming that new legislation in her state prevents her from interacting online with her own children.
The new statute, approved by state legislators this month, contains a provision that prohibits teachers from adding students as "friends" on the social-website Facebook or from communicating with them privately on any such site.
Lawmakers created the law in an effort to protect children from sexual predators online. It requires a school district to report substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct by a former educator, if another school district asks for a reference on that person, says the Courthouse News Service.
But critics say the law is too broad, and the state's teachers' union is fighting back. It filed a class-action lawsuit Friday seeking an injuction to prevent the legislation from taking effect Aug. 28, as planned.
"Teachers cannot know with confidence what conduct is permitted and what is prohibited, and thereby 'chills; the exercise of first amendment rights of speech, association, religion, collective bargaining and other constitutional rights,' " the Missouri State Teachers Association said in its lawsuit, filed Friday against the state, governor and attorney general.
One of the plaintiffs named in the suit, Christina Thomas, claims that the new law would prohibit her from interacting with her own children online, according to the news agency. Thomas is a teacher in the Ladue School District, and her children attend school there.
"Ladue School District has notified its teachers that they cannot have exclusive communications with their own children on Facebook, if they meet the statutory definition of student or former student," the complaint states.
Known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, the new law and its social networking restrictions were created after an investigation found that 87 Missouri teachers lost their licenses from 2001 to 2005 because of sexual misconduct, Forbes.com reports.
Some were fired because they were exchanging explicit online messages with students.
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David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. Follow David on Twitter. Email David at firstname.lastname@example.org. Add David to your Google+ circles.more...