Bills look to ban Facebook

Students at the University of Missouri work on Facebook as part of a class. Current legislation could ban online student/teacher interaction.

AP Photo

Students at the University of Missouri work on Facebook as part of a class. Current legislation could ban online student/teacher interaction.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo – This student wants to be your friend.

If Rep. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield) gets her way, teachers K-12 would be banned from having Facebook, MySpace, or a number of other social networking sites available to their students.

The House passed HB 1314, or the Amy Hestir Davis La. However, the companion piece SB 1212, sponsored by Sen. Victor Callahan (D-Independence) is still under consideration.

The bill, named for a student who was sexually abused by a teacher, address’s a number of issues to protect students from sexual predators including annual background checks for teachers and the banning of “non-work related Internet sites.” A study by the Associated Press revealed 87 cases of sexual misconduct by a teachers in Missouri from 2001 to 2005

“We are serious about creating a system here in Missouri that will keep sexual offenders out of our classrooms,” said Rep. Steve Hunter (R-Joplin)

Though the issue of keeping sexual predators out of schools is one that most have gotten behind, the restrictions caused by illegalizing student/teacher contact via networking sites has created controversy.

“It’s just making it harder for teachers to communicate with their students,” said Laura Dimmit, senior at Joplin High School, “Mrs. Aubert’s group on Facebook saves my life, because I always forget about my meetings.”

A number of area high school and middle school teachers employ Facebook and MySpace as a primary way to get a hold of students including popular blogger, author and middle school teacher Randy Turner and high school business teacher Mandy Witt-Aubert.

Extra curricular activities where students don’t see their teachers on a regular basis rely on networking sites as opposed to e-mail to maintain a connection with members.

“Facebook became a valuable venue for our clubs,” said Aubert, “Joplin High School is so big, announcements do not get around. I don’t see my National Honor Society or FBLA students on an everyday basis. If a new community service opportunity comes open I can send out a message or create an event and have information out to all members in a matter of minutes.”

Though this bill would not affect students and professors on the collegiate level, a many professors on campus use Facebook to update absent students, post assignments and inform classes of cancellations and changes. Some classes like in Dr. Kelly Larson’s Intro to Human Commnications require students to join a Facebook group.

Students also use online networking sites to keep in contact with former teachers. The bill allows for students over 18 to network with their teachers online, but not their younger counterparts.

“I think banning student/teacher interaction on a social networking site like Facebook is absurd,” Aubert said, “Sadly, if a teacher were to “prey” on a student, it would happen whether they were on a site like Facebook or not.”