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On Air Staff and WPM Interns
Tue August 2, 2011
Missouri Outlaws Student-Teacher Facebook Friendship
A law signed into law last month in Missouri is making waves nationally, this week. A small part of the wide-ranging SB54, makes it illegal for teachers to be "friends" with students on any social networking site that allows private communication.
That means teachers and students can't be friends on Facebook or can't follow each other on Twitter for example.
All Things Considered's Michele Norris spoke to an eighth grade teacher from Joplin, Mo., who opposes the new law. Randy Turner, who teachers English, said as teachers your job is to reach out to students and that means going where they are and now a days students have shunned e-mail and are using social networking sites to communicate.
The larger bill, explained Turner, was passed with great support because it was intended to protect children from predatory teachers. It was intended, he said, to stop what is termed "passing the trash," which is when teachers who have had inappropriate contact with students resign quietly only to be hired by another school.
But Turner argues instead of protecting children, this new law may be hurting them. "We may be preventing them from talking to the very people who may be able to help," he said.
In a story last month, Springfield's KSPR talked to a teacher from Nixa, Mo.
Band Director Craig Finger said he has no problem with the law, because the lines between teacher and student are clear to him.
"... If you ask any one of these kids it's very clear we're not friends," Finger said. "We don't friend any students. If you haven't graduated we're not friends. I think the only people I've friended under 18 are my niece and nephew."
But Turner said that in the aftermath of the massive Joplin tornado that killed more than 100, Facebook proved instrumental. He was able to locate 20 students to find out they were OK, because he was friends with them on Facebook. Another teacher, said Turner, who monitors the chatter on Facebook was able to stop a fight.
Plus, Turner says, a lot of other teachers believe this is yet another law that "seems to be saying that children need to be protected from teachers."
Much more of Michele's conversation with Turner will air on your local NPR member station on today's edition of All Things Considered. We'll also post the as-aired version of the interview here a bit later tonight.