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Should Teachers Be Allowed to Friend Their Students?

Missouri’s newest law—the “Facebook Law”—has caused an uproar among teachers, students and others who believe it violates their freedom of speech and association.

Why? The law forbids teachers and students from befriending each other on Facebook. That’s not the law’s only concern—it also touches on things like background checks for anyone having contact with a student and reporting alleged sexual misconduct within 24 hours—but the social media aspect is naturally the only thing people are making a fuss about.

This law was created to thwart inappropriate contact, not start a discussion on constitutional rights. It doesn’t ban all online communication, only communication that isn’t accessible to administrators and parents. So while you can’t befriend a student from your private or protected Facebook and Twitter accounts, the law implies it’s okay to set up a class fan page that your students can join at the their free will.

That makes sense to me. Online freedom is super fantastic and all, but parents should be involved in their child’s education, not locked out by privacy settings. They wouldn’t be too pleased if they found out their child was having private phone conversations with their teacher, so why should they be okay with private messages? Even if it’s about something completely innocent, it’s still inappropriate.

And what kid would actually give a teacher access to their private life? When I was in school, teachers weren’t real people. You know what I mean—our relationship was contained to the classroom and it was shocking to see them doing real people things, like shopping at the grocery store or going to a movie. My teachers were (mostly) very nice people who took an interest in my education and general well-being, but I didn’t care about their personal lives. I had friends my own age to worry about. Besides, what would I have in common with my teacher besides ourselves?

From the online comments I’ve read (the majority of them furious), many believe this law implies that teachers can’t be trusted. Unfortunately, not all of them can. I’m sure most teachers have hearts of gold and only the best of intentions when communicating with students online, but one teacher is inevitably going to ruin it for the rest of them. It’s a fact of life.

This law wasn’t created for those untrustworthy teachers—if teachers really want to misbehave online they’ll just go out and do it. It’s a preventative measure that not only eliminates temptation, but also draws common-sense boundaries that may be blurred by the freedom of social media. Teachers need to be authority figures, not friends. And if it takes a law to achieve that while simultaneously making children more safe? I say thumbs up.

About the Author: 
Stacey Santos's picture
Content Strategist

As Stikky Media’s copywriter, Stacey Santos spends her days writing, editing and obsessing over punctuation. She crafts everything from blog posts and articles to web copy and press releases, and is always looking for an excuse to research strange topics. When she’s not at her computer, you can find her playing the piano, getting lost in nature or eating peas. Questions? Comments? Contact Stacey at stacey@stikkymedia.com.

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