A new law dubbed the “Facebook law”, that prevents teachers from contacting their students over the Internet has led to the filing of charges by a Missouri teacher, who said the law made it illegal for her to chat with her own child using Facebook.
Teachers are prohibited by the new law to engage in exclusive communications over non-work Internet sites involving their students. Students here is defined as those under 18 years of age who goes to the school, or used to go to the schools where the teacher is employed.
Teacher Christina Thomas alleged that teachers working at the Ladue, Mo. School district were informed that they cannot have “exclusive communications” even with their own children n Facebook, if their children fall under the definition provided by the Facebook law. She said this violated her rights under the 1st and 14th amendments.
Virginia Commonwealth University educational leadership professor Charol Shakesshaft told the Huffington Post that the law is a good way to combat sexual abuse in schools considering that in 2000 alone, 10 percent of students in public schools reported unwanted sexual abuse or harassment from an educator.
“Exclusive and private contact with your students isn’t educationally necessary,” she told the site. “In the same way that in a school we would say, ‘No, you may not lock yourself into a room with a student,’ this law effectively says, ‘No you may not lock yourself into a website where only you can get to the student.’”
Thomas is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Union said there are better ways to prevent the misconduct of teachers compared to blocking of social media site contacts and infringement on the freedom of speech.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that a student who raised a banner across the street from his school with the words “Bong hits 4 Jesus” because the banner created a “substantial disruption” within the school could be punished by the school administrators.
The 7th Circuit however sided with the two students who posted their racy photos online and were punished for it. The 3rd Circuit also ruled that they should not have been suspended when they created the MySpace profiles mocking the school administrators, while at home.
“It would be an unseemly and dangerous precedent to allow the state, in the guise of school authorities, to reach into a child’s home and control his/her actions there to the same extent that it can control that child when he/she participates in school-sponsored activities,” the judges wrote.