New Missouri Law Bans Teachers From Being Facebook Friends with Students

classroom Missouri Governor Jay Nixon recently signed a new bill into law that bans “student-teacher friendships” on social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, or any networking website that is exclusive and allows for private communication. The law is intended to keep the personal interactions teachers have with students at an absolute minimum outside of the classroom and to ensure that all relationships are public and strictly professional.

This law is not a bad idea, in theory. There are few advantages for students to have constant access to their teachers outside of the classroom atmosphere and without the supervision of fellow teachers, principals and school boards. The world of social media could arguably aid in teachers’ abilities to mentor and tutor students through group chats, email and instant messaging, but teachers already work a tremendous amount of hours. I find it hard to believe that many teachers would enjoy having their students reaching out to them for extra help or to chat during the little time that they spend away from their classrooms and the almost-constant piles of paperwork and assignments waiting to be graded.

While this law has been received well as a reasonable step to ensure the safety of students and the jobs of hard-working teachers, the extremely vague language of the bill has caused some major concern. In its own language, the bill states that any online interaction between “teachers and current or former students” is forbidden, which has brought up many questions. For instance, does the law pertain to any student that a teacher has personally had in class, or does it extend to any student within a specific school district? When it comes to former students interacting with teachers through social networking, is there a specific time period that must elapse before you can have any online interaction with any teacher who has ever taught you?

This is obviously a new type of law that has emerged from the recent networking possibilities that social networking websites have made possible, but I don’t think that Missouri’s new take on appropriate teacher-student relationships will really accomplish what it sets out to primarily because of the broad wording of the bill.

When I was in high school, which was just a mere six years ago, I had the privilege of having two years of a Creative Writing class with an amazing teacher who single-handedly gave me immense confidence in my ability to write well. Without having him as a teacher, I doubt I would have gone on in life to not just write for a living, but to write for a space that I also created. When I first read about this new law in Missouri, I immediately thought of him and how it was not uncommon for him to give all of his students his personal email address. Out of curiosity, I looked him up on Facebook last night and there are many of his former students who are friends with him on Facebook. If we lived in Missouri, would reaching out to one of the most influential teachers you ever had in your life be against the law, even if you were taught by this educator a handful of years or more ago?


2 thoughts on “New Missouri Law Bans Teachers From Being Facebook Friends with Students”

  1. I think this seems like a law that is well-intentioned, but perhaps not as well thought out as it should be (sadly there are an awful lot of those!)
    While on the one hand, like you mention, there are lots of good points to having such a law, there are clearly downsides too. Does this mean that teachers will no longer be able to communicate through online means with the students that maybe need, and more importantly, want some extra help and guidance?

  2. Much of the coverage of this issue has been incomplete and/or inaccurate, which has led to significant misunderstanding and misplaced anger. I’ve written a post that offers a broader perspective on the law and the potential benefits of restricting interactions between adults and minor children in cyberspace. This piece also provides an alternative that enables individuals and organizations to reap the benefits of digital interactions while better managing the risks. It’s entitled “Can We be Friends? In Cyberspace, ‘No’ May be the Right Answer” and can be accessed via

    Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD
    Founder, Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community

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