The biggest question, surrounding SB54, otherwise know as the Facebook law or the Amy Hester Student Protection Act, is does it protect students from sexual abuse or does it quash freedom of speech. The Missouri State Teacher’s Association has filed a lawsuit, naming Missouri’s governor and the attorney general as defendants, in an effort to stop the effects of this bill, sponsored by Senator Jane Cunningham, from going into effect on Sunday. MSTA claims the broad language of the bill oversteps constitutional rights of teachers and parents by prohibiting interaction with students via social networking sites.
The bill received wide support in Jefferson City as it passed 97-51 in the House and unanimously in the Senate.
The lawsuit by MSTA cites several instances where the bill violates freedom of speech and even communication between teachers, who are parents, and their children. Some of the issues in the suit are the inability for teachers to have non-work related social networking sites, prohibition of teachers to communicate with children, relatives, church youth group members, and it limits their access to increasingly indispensable computer and cell phone based technologies in wide-spread use in society today.
Senate Bill 54, §162.069 effectively prohibits Plaintiffs from interacting with students via Twitter, Facebook, and potentially prohibits other communication sites such as BlackBoard, Virtual Classroom, Angel, and other sites commonly used by teachers for online classes and distance learning.
An additional lawsuit, filed by the ACLU on behalf of Ladue teacher, Christina Thomas was also filed later this week against the district’s school board and members of the Missouri state school board.
The St. Louis Beacon reports:
Christina Thomas said Ladue has told its teachers in a staff memo that if their own children were students or former students, who are covered by the law , then they are barred from “communicating exclusively through Facebook or other social-networking sites with their own children or members of their Sunday School classes, athletic teams or scout troops,” according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.
Senator Cunningham has been reported, by StLToday, to be working in collaboration with the Missouri National Education Association (MNEA) to find resolutions to the issues currently in the bill.
Governor Nixon has called a special session to convene in September and it is possible the bill may be on the agenda for alteration at that time.
UPDATE: In a Capitol Report issued by Scott Rupp’s office on 8/26, he reports an injuntion has been issued which will delay the implementation of SB54 for 180 days.
Next week, on Sunday, Aug. 28, countless bills passed by General Assembly and signed by the governor will officially become Missouri law. One of those measures, SB 54, would have been included in this list. However, a recent injunction (lasts for 180 days) has been set into place to stop this law from going into effect. In addition, the governor announced that he expanded his call for special session and is asking the General Assembly to repeal certain provisions of SB 54. This bill is designed to protect our children from sexual assault in our public schools.