The St. Louis Beacon reports that the Missouri House has voted 139-2 to eliminate language in the state’s newly enacted “Facebook law” that, according to a court, apparently barred most social-media communication between teachers and students. Now that both the state House and Senate have approved the amending legislation, it heads to Gov. Nixon for his signature. The governor had previously called for the legislature to repeal the provision.
The aim of the original bill had been to discourage inappropriate social-media communication between teachers and students, but court challenges contend that the restriction also violates free-speech rights. [In August 2011] a Cole County Court prevented the original law from going to effect.
Rep. Chris Kelly, who handled the bill, called the original ban and the proposed fix “a lesson to us all in the effect of unintended consequences.” The new legislation calls for each of the state’s 529 school districts to pass a policy on communication via social media, but does not stipulate what the policy should be beyond some broad outlines. It also gives districts more time, until March 2012, to put a policy in place.
Kelly said the bill provides flexibility to local school districts in determining policies that work well for them. ”It is supportive of the concept of local control,” Kelly said. “The idea that we know more or that we’re more committed to students than school board members I think is fallacious.”
Rep. Jay Barnes, one of the two House members who voted against the measure, questioned whether this approach would prompt school boards to adopt unconstitutional policies. ”What I’m afraid that we’re doing is we’re taking one big unconstitutional law and we’re telling 529 different school districts to act to adopt a policy,” Barnes said. “Some of them are going to adopt constitutional policies. But some of them probably aren’t.”
In response, Kelly stressed that that boards will have guidance from the Missouri School Boards Association, educational groups and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Source: St. Louis Beacon, 9/23/11, By Jason Rosenbaum
[Editor's Note: In September 2011, Legal Clips summarized a report from the Chesterfield Patch noting that the Missouri legislature was moving toward a repeal of key provisions of the Facebook ban following a preliminary court order prohibiting its implementation.]