Jessica: Is your teacher your friend on Facebook?
Teen: Yeah, I’m friends with a lot of my teachers and some of my coaches.
Teen: I’ve got a couple of teachers who are friends on Facebook.
Jessica: And how often do you message them privately?
Teen: I talk to them at least once or twice a week. If they’re on a more personal basis, maybe once a day.
Jessica: Well, catching up with your teacher privately on Facebook might become illegal in Missouri. See, a bill was passed over the summer that changes the way teachers and students are allowed to communicate. It wouldn’t force teachers to de-friend their students, but would require teachers and students to contact each other in public, meaning that they would only be allowed to post on each others walls and other public places where anyone can read the message. And school districts would need to also come up with rules about how teachers and students communicate with text messages.
It sparked a heated debate all summer and the Teacher’s Union sued saying it was a violation of their freedom of speech. Last week, a judge agreed and blocked parts of the law just the day before it was supposed to go into effect.
Some people say this is a violation of your first amendment right, freedom of speech, what do you think about that?
Teen: It kind of is. It’s just talking about stuff. It’s their business if they want to talk about it.
Teen: You should be able to talk to whomever you want. They are not going to ban you from talking to them any other time. If you see them outside the school, maybe at Walmart, or when you’re out to eat or something, that’s not banned. So, why can’t you just talk to them over the internet?
Jessica: But supporters of the bill here in Missouri say this law only bans private messaging and that is to prevent any inappropriate conversations.
Senator Cunningham: We only prohibit hidden communication between an educator and a student.
Jessica: Senator Cunningham, who sponsored the bill, says it is meant to protect students from abuse. But some teachers and students argue certain messages, even school-related ones, need to be kept private. For example, Rex Whisner relied on private Facebook messaging to get information from his teacher after the tornado hit Joplin this May.
Rex Whisner: When the tornado hit, I was failing a class, so I had to go to summer school to make it up and I knew nothing about summer school and she happened to message me on Facebook to tell me that I needed to get enrolled and everything. And I got enrolled and ended up passing the class and being eligible to play sports and stuff still.
Jessica: Whatever the outcome, this could be the first of many debates about how students and teachers communicate online.
Jessica Kumari, Channel One News.