A new law in Missouri forbidding teachers and students from interacting on social media Web sites like Facebook will go into effect later this month, in an effort to "more clearly define teacher-student boundaries."
Missouri Senate Bill 54 goes into effect on Aug. 28 forbidding teachers and students from being friends on any social media Web site to prevent inappropriate sexual misconduct by teachers and students.
Teachers will not be allowed to directly or indirectly message, comment, befriend, share data or any other "exclusive access" as the new law will deem any communication illegal.
The only exception is public group Facebook pages which teachers can set up for an online community amongst classmates, according to Mashable.
Signed by the Governor on July 14, the law prohibits not only current students from communication via social networking, but also any former student under the age of 18 or who has not graduated.
The purpose of the new law is to prevent all inappropriate contact between teachers and students from occurring and to protect children from sexual harassment.
"We are in no way trying to stop communication between educators and students," State Sen. Jane Cunningham, who sponsored the bill, said to Fox News. "We are allowing school districts to form their own policy with this and to police themselves. The social media aspect comes in because we're finding that it's an early pathway to sexual misconduct."
The section of the law regarding social media policies states:
"Every school district must develop a written policy concerning teacher-student communication and employee-student communications. Each policy must include appropriate oral and nonverbal personal communication, which may be combined with sexual harassment policies, and appropriate use of electronic media as described in the act, including social networking sites. Teachers cannot establish, maintain, or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and the child's legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian. Teachers also cannot have a nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student. Former student is defined as any person who was at one time a student at the school at which the teacher is employed and who is eighteen years of age or less and who has not graduated."
The "Amy Hestir Student Protection Act," named after a girl who was repeatedly harassed and sexually abused by a teacher, also discloses news regulations that state a school is liable for not disclosing any prior events of sexual abuse by teachers or other employees, particularly bus drivers.