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Missouri’s contested “Facebook law” got a makeover from legislators and education groups on Wednesday, Sept. 7, when they unanimously agreed to have local districts create their own policies regarding teachers’ communication with students via Facebook, texting and other private means.
The Senate Education Committee voted 8-0 in favor of the bill’s new wording, sending it to the full Senate.
However, the measure goes beyond the specific special session call of Gov. Jay Nixon, who limited the legislature to considering a simple repeal of the social media restriction.
Governor spokesman Scott Holste said Nixon does not intend to expand his call.
Representatives from state education groups, including the Missouri State Teacher’s Association, Missouri School Board Association and Missouri National Education Association, spoke in favor of the revisions at Wednesday’s [Sept. 7] hearing.
Earlier this summer, MSTA filed a lawsuit against the law charging it violates First Amendment rights of teachers. The lawsuit describes the law as being “so vague and overbroad that the Plaintiffs cannot know with confidence what conduct is permitted.”
“The only communication prohibited in Senate Bill 54 was hidden communication between a teacher and student,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County. Cunningham met with education organizations earlier this summer to address their concerns and amend the bill.
The amended wording requires local school districts to create their own policies regarding electronic communication by March 1. It also broadens the wording to apply not just to teachers but to all school staff.