Judge: Missouri's 'Facebook Law' Violates Teachers' Free Speech Rights
by Wendy Davis
Media Post Publications
August 29, 2011
A state judge in Missouri has struck down a new law in that state that would have restricted teachers' ability to use social networking sites.
The law, which aimed to protect students from sex abuse, prohibited teachers from having accounts on Facebook or other social networking sites that allow "exclusive access" with a student.
Last Monday, the Missouri Teachers Association filed suit to have the statute declared unconstitutional. The teachers' group argued that the law violates their First Amendment free speech rights. The teacher leading the protests, Christina Thomas, argued that the law's provisions were so broad as to make it illegal for her to communicate with her own child through social sites.
Late last week, a judge agreed. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem issued an injunction banning the state from enforcing the new law for at least 180 days.
"The breadth of the prohibition is staggering," Beetem wrote.
"Social networking is extensively used by educators," he continued, adding that the law is so far-reaching that it "clearly prohibits communications between family members and their teacher parents using these types of sites."
It isn't surprising that the law was struck down, given just how broad it was -- and how little sense it made. Rather than protecting students, the law would cut off a means of communication for no reason other than a fear of technology. After all, teachers can talk to students in person every day of the school year.