In an effort to prevent student-teacher relationships from developing, the state of Missouri’s governor has just put into effect a law that makes it illegal for teachers to directly communicate with students, regardless of whether they’re still under their tutelage or not. Here’s what the law states:

“Teachers cannot establish, maintain or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and the child’s legal custodian, physical custodian or legal guardian. Teachers also cannot have a non work-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student.”

This is not the first time such a thing has happened – last year the Lee County school district became the first school district in Florida (possibly the country) to issue teacher rules for social media – and it probably won’t be the last either. But will preventing  “out of work” teacher-student relationships from happening work in an effective way? After all, these relationships can happen even without the use of social networks. Also would students be allowed to contact their teacher via email? (school email, is probably considered “work” relationship).

Authorities say that these rules are providing guidelines, although it’s not completely clear what would happen if a teacher does decide to communicate with a student using a social network. Part of the problem, from the school point of view, is the possible legal liabilities that could come with a stream of evidence that is potentially published for the whole world to see. In their view, avoiding using social networks makes it less likely that someone will share something unfortunate that could come back and bite them (school and teacher) in the behind.

On the other hand, having teachers and students communicate more is not always a bad thing. It can make teachers more available, and opens to students the possibility of getting personalized answers and information pertinent to their unique situation.

What do you think of this law? In your opinion, is it helping and is there a better way ?

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