Missouri Teachers Sue for Right to Friend Students on Facebook

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Should teachers be allowed to befriend students on social media? That’s the question at the heart of a new lawsuit in Missouri, challenging the constitutionality of the state’s new “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act.”

The act, which goes into effect August 28th, was created to prohibit inappropriate contact between students and teachers, and was named after a student who had been molested by a teacher years earlier.

(MORE: Missouri Law: Teachers and Students Can’t Be Facebook Friends)

But as part of its protections for children, students and teachers aren’t allowed to communicate privately through text messaging or online, which in turn means that teachers and students can’t be Facebook friends—something that the Missouri State Teachers Association believes infringes upon the teachers’ first amendment rights of free speech and association.

The lawsuit says that teachers “have used and are using non-work-related social networking sites as an important avenue for contact with students, both during emergencies and for everyday educational issues, such as when a student has difficulty with a classroom assignment or identifying bullying,” before going on to add that the new law “makes it unlawful for Plaintiffs who are also parents of a child in the school district to communicate with her student/child via a non-work-related social networking site if there could be exclusive access.”

The lawsuit was filed Friday with the Circuit Court of Cole County.

[via ZDNet]

MORE: Can Schools Punish Students for Posting Racy Photos Online?

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.