MO Statehouse/"Facebook" law compromise
5:10 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

Educators working with sponsor on fix for "Facebook" law

A group of educators led by the Missouri National Education Association says its confident it can strike a deal with lawmakers to settle confusion over a new state law governing how students and teachers interact using social media like Facebook.

The law, the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, blocks students and teachers from communicating privately on electronic media without a third party present. For example, an e-mail between a student and teacher would have to be copied to someone else as well.

Teachers have expressed concern that the law would prevent them from "friending" students on Facebook even after the students have left their classroom. Other say the laws would prevent teachers who are also parents from emailing or texting with their child if the child has ever also been their student.

The Missouri State Teachers Association has filed suit, claiming the law is too broad and infringes on the First Amendment rights of its members.

Kit Crancer, the chief of staff to the act's sponsor, Republican state Senator Jane Cunningham of Chesterfield, said the changes would be minimal.

"Frankly, we’re in favor of the provisions which are blocking private communication between an instructor and a student," Crancer said. "We want to clarify and at least provide guidelines for all the instructors in the state."

Crancer and Otto Fajen, the legislative director for the MNEA, met on Tuesday to start discussions about the changes. Both are confident a deal can be worked out to get the new language included in the special session that starts Sept. 6, but Fajen says teachers shouldn't panic if that doesn't happen.

"There’s no need, from our perspective, for teachers to try to independently decipher what this all means," Fajen said. "They can just kind of look to, 'what does my supervisor say is the policy?'"

A spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon, who sets the agenda for a special session, would not say if the session would be expanded if a compromise could be reached.