Missouri judge blocks law banning teachers from using social media with students

[JURIST] Cole County Circuit Court of Missouri [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [order, PDF] on Wednesday enjoining the State of Missouri [official website] from implementing Missouri Revised Statutes § 162.069.4 [text, PDF], which prevents students and teachers from communicating through social networking sites that cannot be accessed by school administrators or parents. Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled that the statute implicated the First Amendment rights of teachers and described the breadth of prohibition as "staggering." The Court found that social networking is used extensively by teachers, and often is the primary if not the sole medium of communication between teachers and students or parents. The Court concluded that the chilling effect the statute would have on speech and that public interest is best served by allowing a trial and ruling on the merits before the statute is implemented. The Missouri State Teachers Association (MTSA) [official website] expressed their approval of the injunction citing that the injunction "gives everyone time to debate and discuss the issue to come to a proper resolution rather than rushing to piece together language that doesn't resolve the concerns of educators or allow time for teacher input." Meanwhile, Governor Jay Nixon [official website] announced [press release] plans on Friday to ask the General Assembly to repeal statute 162.069, sections 1 through 4, due to substantial confusion among teachers, students and families. The injunction is set to expire on February 20, 2012.

The social media law is a part of Senate Bill 54, also known as Amy Hestir Student Protection Act [materials]. The bill passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate during the regular legislative session. MTSA filed an action on August 19 opposing the prohibition of social media because it would inhibit the ability of the teachers to communicate with students through social media sites such as Facebook and through text messaging.

 

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