A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I'm your teacher, not your friend, but this law is still pointless.

As you may have heard, Missouri passed a law known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, a few weeks ago making it illegal for teachers to have contact with their students via social networking sites. This law immediately faced challenges about its lack of common sense as well as its constitutionality, so much so that a right-leaning teacher group in Missouri (the MSTA) won the race to challenge it in court.

Little more than two weeks after its UNANIMOUS passage in the Missouri legislature (the Missouri legislature being basically as much an embarrassment as most state legislatures are), the law's implementation was stayed by court order.

So, on Friday, September 15, the law was revised by the Missouri Senate, although it has not been passed by the House nor signed by the governor, so the lawsuit continues.

Here's the question: would this law have prevented some horrible people from using their positions of trust and authority as teachers from contact their students for illicit purposes?


I am adamant about NOT friending my students on Facebook until they are out of college, which in my book means they have to be 24 years old. Then, and only then, if they really want to read about Ms. Cornelius' battles with the neighbors' Satanic dogs or my weird snippets of 70s rock songs, then be my guest. They must really have liked me to want to connect after all those years. Hopefully, also, by then, I will not be treated to pictures of their inebriated selves at some fraternity kegger showing off their new nipple ring, which would be deeply traumatic for me (and one would also think for them, but, y'know, c'est la vie).

I also do not give out my phone number, nor do I have a Twitter account, nor do I stay in my room alone with a student without the door open and at least fifteen feet between us.

BUT, disgusting creeps will be disgusting creeps, no matter what. This law would could easily have been read to make my classroom blog illegal, since it was not created under the aegis of our school district's creaky, misbegotten, twitchy, unreliable technology department, of whom I have previously written. If someone in state government REALLY wants to make a difference on this issue, how about making it illegal for districts to cut deals with miscreants who have crossed the line-- for instance, in exchange for a resignation, the district writes a neutral recommendation, merely pawning off creeps onto the next unsuspecting school district faster than you can say "pedophile." At the very least.

But this law? Unconstitutional as written, and also unproductive.

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At 9/18/11, 8:01 PM, Blogger Karenina said...

I hear you; we are "advised" by our school boards here in Ontario not to use social media sites to contact our students (or anyone under 18 for that matter), and it makes sense. The part that puts a twist in my nickers is that somehow, I am still responsible for policing/noticing/stopping internet bullying (on the likes of Facebook and whatnot). While I really do want to help end bully (mean people suck), I don't see how I can be expected to be the least bit responsible for relationships and conversations I don't even know exist. What ever happened to "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil?"

Great post!

At 9/18/11, 8:28 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

Most of us have "school accounts" on facebook, and it's from those accounts that we friend the students. The school has a facebook presence, and the director, myself, and a number of other teachers and staff are connected to the kids that way.

It's a shame that people like me, who mothers her students, have to be scared to have genuine, caring relationships with them. You're right; creeps are everywhere, and a little inconvenient law isn't going to stop them. I just wish they didn't interfere so much with my being able to love the kids in the blameless way that I do.

At 9/19/11, 10:11 AM, Blogger That One English Teacher said...

I let my students friend me the night of graduation, which is apparently something very exciting for them. I do maintain strict rules of staying friend with them, though. If there's any mention of drugs or alcohol, I delete them. I know they're not my responsibility any more, but I don't want to be a part of that part of their lives. That said, I've deleted a whole lot of students form the class of 2011 already.

At 9/20/11, 7:03 PM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

I don't friend current students either. But that law is patently idiotic. I can't believe the stuff people sit around and think up.

At 9/22/11, 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

None of my students should be on Facebook, since I teach elementary school, but a few are and have requested me. I have only friended one current student, and then blocked everything except chat and messaging, because her father had just gone to jail and she needed some adult assurance. I unfriended her very soon after because of a situation in our community. An employee of our middle school became involved with a student and it was made public when a coworker saw his private FB messages to the student. This was actually an FB "friending" that was encouraged by an absentee parent. No law prohibiting social networking contact would have stopped this relationship, and in fact if not for FB it might not have been discovered. When every teen has a cell phone with texting, an email address, and various social networking IDs policing 1 or 2 is not going to stop things. Afterall, I knew several student/teacher relationships when I was in school in the pre-digital era.

Maybe we should focus on "good touch/bad touch" lessons instead.

At 9/28/11, 9:39 PM, Anonymous Angel Read said...

I have actually thought of creating a second Facebook account strictly for "friending" students if they requested it... where I would just keep everything super-clean and sort of boring, but where I could also keep an eye on what they were doing. Most likely though, I will not be teaching kids who are old enough to be on Facebook!


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