Teachers in Missouri were granted a preliminary injunction today over a new law that bans direct social networking contact between teachers and students.
The new law, which went into effect August 28, prohibits teachers from becoming friends with their students on giant social network Facebook.
Last week, the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) filed a suit that argues the law infringes on educators’ first amendment rights of free speech, association and religion. It asked the courts to prevent implementation of a statute in the law regarding social media until its constitutionality was decided.
After finding that teachers in Missouri use social media as one of their primary forms of communication, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem granted the MSTA a 180-injunction ending February 20, 2012. The judge noted that the new law clearly prohibits communication between a student’s parents and teachers. He also said “the statute would have a chilling effect on speech,” according to a court document (PDF).
Under the ruling, teachers won’t face legal action or disciplinary action for using non-work related social media — meaning, for now, teachers can interact with students on Facebook pages, connect as “friends” and message each other.
Having reported on several accounts of inappropriate teacher-student relationships as a local education beat reporter, I can see why there would be a knee-jerk reaction to ban all student and teach interaction over social networks. But, I can also understand why the state teacher’s union acted against the law. If social media is one of the few avenues teachers can reach their students to further their education, they understandably don’t want to give it up because of a few bad eggs who broke the law.