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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Missouri Senate Approves Fix to 'Facebook law' : Will be up to local school board (AUDIO Story)

Missouri Senate approves revision to 'Facebook law' PDF Print E-mail Share
By Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies, Beacon reporters

The Missouri Senate gave first-round approval Monday afternoon to a bill aimed at correcting language in a newly enacted law -- already in the courts -- that appears to ban most private teacher-student interaction on the Internet, including via email, Facebook and Twitter.
The voice vote signals that the measure -- one of several on the special session agenda -- will likely move quickly out of the Senate and to the House, which does not reconvene until Wednesday.
The Senate bill could face resistance from Gov. Jay Nixon, however, because it attempts to revise the provision in question. Nixon, Missouri's former attorney general, wants an outright repeal. He has called for a commission to then consider the matter.
cunningham100jane2010State Sen. Jane Cunningham, (right) R-Chesterfield, sponsored the bill revising the language. She also sponsored the original bill, which was aimed at discouraging communication that could encourage educators who are sexual predators.
Cunningham's revision won unaninmous approval of a Senate committee last week -- largely because the new wording is supported by associations representing teachers, administrators and school boards, as well as social-conservative groups.
The new wording, in effect, requires local school districts to come up with a policy for social-media communication. But the compromise doesn't go into the particulars of what the policy should be, beyond some broad outlines. It also gives districts more time, until March 2012, to put some a policy in place.
Two lawsuits have been filed since the original provisions went into effect in late August, with a judge already barring its implementation over free-speech concerns.
Cunningham told the Senate before today's vote that the new language will "protect teachers' rights" and provide school boards with the flexibilities to enact policies of their own. She also said that educating groups - such as the MNEA and MSTA - signed off the bill. "This allows the local school district the burden and the responsibility and the authority to develop and implement a policy."
justus100jolieWhile supportive of Cunningham's efforts, state Sen. Jolie Justus, (left) D-Kansas City, said she was concerned with trying to statutorily regulate technology "because it changes so quickly."
Said Justus in an exchange with Cunningham, "I had a couple of teachers over the weekend ask me a question ... 'Can I have a Facebook page?' And the answer, I think is, 'I don't know.' Is that the answer? I mean, is it going to be up to the school boards?"
"Yes it will be up to the school boards," Cunningham replied, adding that she believed the changed language did address the issue of rapidly changing technology.
              Justus and Cunningham :23 mp3[1facer2] :18 “school board”
Cunningham maintins the legisalture has the power to go beyond the specifics in the governor’s call for a special session. Governor Nixon had called for lawmakers to repeal questionable parts of a bill passed in the spring. But he specifically says he wants no new language in its place until January. Cunningham says he cannot place such tight limits on the general assembly.

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