Missouri Law: Teachers and Students Can’t Be Facebook Friends

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Come August 28, teachers and students in Missouri can no longer be friends — on Facebook.

With a new law, Missouri has became the first in the nation to prohibit social networking between students and teachers. When Missouri Senate Bill 54, which was signed by the governor last week, takes effect later this month, teachers and students will no longer be able to connect on any site (not just Facebook) that allows for private communication.

The bill, also called the “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act,” is designed to protect students from sexual misconduct by teachers. It is named for a Missouri woman who was continually molested and assaulted by her junior high school teacher. According to All Facebook, the teacher was employed by several school districts and was even recognized as a “Teacher of the Year.”

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Along those lines, the law also requires each school district in the state to develop a written policy on the expectations for contact between students and teachers across all forms of online communication, says Mashable.  Further, it holds school districts liable if they fail to disclose in a reference check that a teacher had a prior incident of sexual misconduct.

But as only direct contact is prohibited by the law, teachers can still set up public Facebook pages and have students “fan” them, according to a local ABC News affiliate.

While the law says teachers may not friend their current or former students, it leaves many of the details open to interpretation. For instance: Whose students may you not friend? Just those in your class? Or any at the school? What about what after they graduate? What if they move to a new school/grade/city? And further, how will this be policed?

Kayla Webley is a Writer-Reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @kaylawebley or on Facebook at facebook.com/kaylalwebley. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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