Missouri Enacts Facebook Patriot Act

The top story in the St. Louis area right now is the suspension of a professional baseball player.  A law passed by the Missouri Senate in July which is about to go into effect limiting contact between teachers and students via social networks is perhaps a distant second.
State Senator Jane Cunningham (R-Nanny State) authored the “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act,” which aims to prohibit private communication between teachers and students.  Some reports have stated that it prevents students from being “friends” with teachers on social networking sites like Facebook.  Senator Cunningham claims the law does no such thing and that it only prohibits conversations that can be seen only by the teacher and the student.  In other words, students and teachers can correspond on each other’s Facebook wall, but not through Facebook’s messaging service unless it is copied to a parent. 

It doesn’t take much to see what’s wrong with this picture besides the blatant violation of privacy. 

The objective is obviously meant to protect students from teachers who might be sexual predators, but Cunningham’s busybody legislation completely misses the mark.  It presumes teachers are guilty until proven innocent. 

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cunningham says of her law, “If you are a teacher that’s not doing anything wrong, you’ll want parents to see that communication.”  Does anyone else see the resemblance between this remark and those of the defenders of the Patriot Act and illegal wiretapping who muttered some version of “Well, if you’re not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about”?   

If there is some perverted classroom lecturer who is determined to have their way with a young student, is it more moral that they set up a rendezvous via traditional e-mail instead of the Facebook messaging service?  Will the government of Missouri then outlaw e-mails between teachers and students? 

And what do we do when some student innocently messages their teacher a question about schoolwork (imagine that!) and the teacher absent-mindedly replies?  Must this teacher be fired or hauled off to a cage for answering a school-related question appropriately through a Facebook message?  To enforce this law will Missouri claim the right to monitor the Facebook accounts of every student and teacher? 

This is just one of many problems with modern government.  When there is a problem, and teacher-student sexual relationships constitute a legitimate problem, moral busybodies like Jane Cunningham believe it is incumbent upon them to change the nature of human beings as if criminalizing the medium eradicates the intention. 

Just during my time in high school (1998-2002), there were at least two teacher-student sex scandals — and neither of them required social networking.  The action is what deserves punishment, not the avenue through which the crime was committed. 

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