Tweaked Facebook Law Gets Governor Jay Nixon's Signature

He enacted repeals and additions to the social networking law aimed at Missouri schools but said even the revised version has flaws.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has signed Senate Bill 1, which repeals a portion a state school social networking law—Senate Bill 54—passed by the General Assembly this spring.

In August, Patch reported on the controversy and confusion surrounding Senate Bill 54, also known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act. It is sponsored by former Ladue school board member and Missouri State Senator Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield) and designed to protect students. 

The Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) sued the state over ths social network portions of Senate Bill 54, claiming it was too vague. MSTA was awarded an injunction on Aug. 26, just two days before the new law was to take effect.

At that time Nixon called for repeals to parts of SB 54 and Cunningham worked to revise and clarify the bill.

The revisions to the social media aspects of SB 54 took the form of Senate Bill 1. SB 1 was passed by the Missouri House and Senate at the end of September and then made its way to the governor for approval.

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On Friday, the bill that repeals a section of the original one and adds a section to address communications between school district employees and students got that approval.

“This bill is not as good as it should be, but to veto it would return us to a bill that would be far worse,” Nixon stated in a press release.

Senate Bill 1 modifies the components that must be included in each school district's policy and repeals the existing components. It requires each school district to put into effect and promote a policy directed at the use of electronic communication between staff members and students by March 1. 

Districts are expected to draft those policies in a way that will prevent "improper communications" between staff and students, Nixon's office stated in the release.

SB1 also repeals:

  • The prohibition on a teacher establishing, maintaining, or using a work-related internet site unless it is available to school administrators and the child's legal custodian, physical custodian or legal guardian.
  • The prohibition on a teacher establishing, maintaining, or using a nonwork-related internet site which allows exclusive access with a current or former student.
  • The definitions of: exclusive access, former student, work-related internet site, and nonwork-related internet site.

Governor Nixon's office released a accompanying signing statement, and stated in a press releas, "although Senate Bill 1 eliminated particularly egregious provisions contained in Senate Bill 54, the new bill was not without flaws which could have been avoided with a more deliberative approach."

“Nonetheless…Senate Bill No. 1 is an improvement – primarily through subtraction – over…Senate Bill 54… Senate Bill No. 1 is not perfect, but the alternative of educators having to conform to the unreasonable restrictions of…Senate Bill No. 54 is a far worse result,” the signing statement said.


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