Missouri Teacher Facebook Ban: Are there alternatives for other states?

On August 3, 2011, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed a controversial law banning teachers and students from “friending” each other on social media websites like Facebook. The law bans all private student-teacher communications online. Facebook logo The law drew immediate praise from parent groups and was denounced by Missouri teachers as an unconstitutional infringement on their free speech rights. Last month, teachers’ groups sued to block the new law’s enforcement. In this preliminary test, the teachers were victorious. As students were preparing to return to school from summer break, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem blocked the law from taking effect because of fears it may chill free speech. (See a copy of Judge Beetem’s opinion here.) In response, Governor Nixon reversed his position and is now calling for the law to be repealed in a special legislative session starting September 6th. Although the future of the law in Missouri is unclear, the debate raises questions for students, teachers, and parents around the country. Is the value of a regulation like the one enacted in Missouri worth the cost of teachers’ free speech rights? Are the claimed safety benefits worth the potential cost to student learning? Should similar laws be emulated elsewhere? Continue reading