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New law banning teacher-student communication online challenged

A union that represents 44,000 teachers has challenged a new state law that it says overly restricts teachers' online use. This new law was passed in Missouri, not California, but brings up important issues related to the rights of employees. The law was created in order to prevent sexual predation of students by teachers.

The law also increases background checks on potential new hires. The law will make schools liable if a student is sexually molested by a teacher if the school could have prevented the abuse, such as through not hiring the teacher if they knew about past sexual misconduct.

The part of the bill that the teachers' union has a problem with is a part that restricts teachers' online communications with students. The law says that teachers cannot privately communicate with current or former minor students through the Internet. This means no Facebook messages, no Twitter direct messages, no e-mail and no instant messaging.

The union says that the law is overly broad and vague and violates teachers' First Amendment rights. The union wants a judge to block the law so that it does not go into effect as scheduled on August 28.

Some teachers say that the law will prevent them from having Facebook pages at all. Others say that the law will prevent them from communicating with their own kids online. Others point out that the Internet is a great resource for enhancing teaching and learning and simply cutting it out as a tool teachers and students can use may hurt children more than help.

Source: Wired, "Union Challenges Missouri Ban on Student-Teacher Online Communications," David Kravets, Aug. 22, 2011