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Missouri restricts social media

August 16, 2011

This article, which appeared in the Journal Review Online, describes a new law in the State of Missouri, which is set to go into effect the end of August. I wonder how this law will impact the use of social media in schools and whether other states will adopt similar laws.

Teachers who use websites and social media networks as a part of their teaching curriculum might want to rethink their approach.

A new law in Missouri places restrictions on the amount of contact teachers and students can have online, particularly as it deals with private messages and interaction. The law pertains to public school teachers and personnel only.

One section in the new Missouri law forbids teachers from communicating privately with a student using a non-work social media account or website. Any discussions conducted between a teacher and student online must be completely public and transparent.

For example, if a teacher has a personal Facebook account and “friends” a student, any message on that account to that student that’s not accessible publicly is a violation of Missouri law. While a student, parent or teacher could theoretically all be “friends” in the social network, that fact alone doesn’t make communication between the student and teacher legal.

If the teacher sends the student a message privately on the system, or replies to a private note from a student — even if the inquiry is a practical one asking about a homework assignment or topic being discussed in class — that educator would be breaking the law if that message can’t be seen by everyone.

And that goes for all non-classroom educators as well, including principals and administrative personnel…More


In the article below, which sites the Missouri decision, they take another view.

States miss a social-media education opportunity

Found in the Washington Post Opinions: August 19

IN CLASSROOMS across the country, teachers are embracing new technology to reach their students. From social media, like Facebook and Twitter, to messenger programs such as Skype, teachers are more equipped to communicate with their students than ever before.

Charter school teachers in the successful Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) give students and parents their cellphone numbers and use social media to enhance the educational experience. The Internet not only can bring the world to every classroom, it also can strengthen communication between teachers and students.

However, in some places, new laws and proposed measures are impeding teacher communication with students outside of school-sanctioned e-mail systems. The most recent practitioner of educational technophobia is Missouri, which last month adopted legislation intended to ban direct communication between teachers and students via Facebook.

The law is so broad it could effectively also bar student-teacher contact via Gmail or other non-school e-mail services. MORE.

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