ACLU Challenges Teacher-Student Facebook Ban

Missouri will start banning teacher-student friending on Facebook later this month, but the American Civil Liberties Union is threatening litigation saying that it could violate First Amendment rights.

The majority of what's in Missouri's Amy Hestir Protection Act, has nothing to do with Facebook -- it was based on an inappropriate sexual relationship between a teacher and a 13-year-old student long before Facebook was even an idea. The law prevents teachers with substantiated sexual misconduct claims against them from transferring to another district without full disclosure, according to KSPR

However, a few paragraphs in the middle of the law limit interactions between teachers and students online, which many districts are interpreting as a Facebook ban, the International Business Times reported.

"We may have as many different interpretations of the law as we have school districts," Anthony Rothert, an ACLU attorney, told the IB Times. "When it comes to the First Amendment, there needs to be clarity."

The Atlantic has decided to defend Facebook and teacher-student friending. From the article:   

If I had a fifth grader, I wouldn't want her scrolling through Facebook photos of her 27-year-old teacher doing beer bong hits at the Las Vegas bachelor party he attended last weekend. On the other hand, I know lots of teachers who have current or former students as Facebook contacts. Those online connections have led to valuable advice-giving, mentorships, and even eventual friendships. 

As the Atlantic points out, perhaps we shouldn't enact laws that treat everyone as a sexual predator. We aren't against district policies regarding how teachers should interact with students -- including creating specific accounts for teacher-student use to bypass a teacher's personal account. Facebook can be a collaborative resource for the classroom -- clarifying assignments, answering questions or connecting students -- and it's easily monitored. 

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