Yesterday, the Missouri State Senate voted unanimously to repeal controversial portions of the state’s Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, which restricts how teachers can use the Internet. If passed by the state House and signed by the governor, the repeal bill would eliminate restrictions on teachers’ maintenance of non-public “work-related” websites and social networking contact with current or former students.
The controversial Student Protection Act was passed just over two months ago with the goal of preventing sexual abuse of students. Two provisions have been most controversial and would be repealed. The first states that teachers may not establish or maintain “work-related” a website unless school administrators and children’s parents or guardians have access to that site. The second says that teachers may not use a “nonwork-related” site that “allows exclusive access” with a current or former student.
Teachers and other critics say that although they support the goal of preventing sexual abuse, the restrictions on speech and intrusions into teacher privacy go too far and are too ambiguous. Before the legislature’s recent move toward repeal, the state teachers’ association was able to obtain a temporary injunction in court preventing the law from going into effect. If the repeal bill is not enacted into law, a trial and a determination on a permanent injunction would take place in February of next year.