A Missouri judge has blocked a new law that would have prevented teachers and students communicating privately on social media websites or through texting, and now the governor who signed the legislation is calling for its repeal.
The law, which was to take effect on Aug. 28, would have barred teachers from using websites that give "exclusive access" to current or former students who are 18 or younger, The Associated Press reports. That would have meant that teachers could not have sent private messages to students on Facebook – even their own children – or to students in virtual classrooms.
Teachers had complained that the law could curtail their classroom activities and school-related conversations on Facebook and Twitter. On Aug. 19, the Missouri State Teachers Association filed a lawsuit against the state, citing the bill's vague language and inconsistent interpretations regarding online communication as violations of the First and Fourteenth amendments, the Columbia Missourian reports.
On Friday, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem issued a preliminary injunction blocking the part of the law that restricts electronic communication until at least February. "The court finds that the statute would have a chilling effect on speech," Beetem said in his ruling. Other parts of the law, which attempts to protect children from abuse at school, will take effect Sunday.
According to the Kansas City Star:
The bill, known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, was named for a woman who said she was manipulated into a sexual relationship with a teacher while in junior high school. The measure unanimously passed the House and Senate, and [Gov. Jay] Nixon signed it into law in July.
Nixon, a Democrat, said Friday that the law’s provisions about online communication are "causing substantial confusion and concern among teachers, students and families" and so should be repealed. "In a digital world, we must recognize that social media can be an important tool for teaching and learning," he said, according to the AP.
The governor announced that the Missouri General Assembly would take up the issue of repealing the electronic communications provisions of the law at a special session on Sept. 6.
"This entire process has sparked a dialogue on how technology is being used in the classroom," Todd Fuller, communications director for the Missouri State Teachers Association, told the Columbia Missourian. "Not only in Missouri, but nationwide."