“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
Former President Ronald Reagan said those were the scariest words in the English language.
We can think of five other words that are also frightening: “There ought to be a law.”
Think carefully about what you wish for. “One size fits all” is no more true for clothing than for laws.
A recent example is Missouri’s “Facebook” law, designed to restrict opportunities for sexual misconduct between students and teachers.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed the law; set to take effect on Aug. 28. Dubbed the “Facebook” law, the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act will place sanctions on social media communication between teachers and students in an effort to restrict opportunities for sexual misconduct.
A teacher has already filed a lawsuit saying it violates both the First and Fourteenth amendments. The teachers’ union also questions the vague wording of the law which prohibits teachers from using work, or private, websites to communicate with students unless the administration and parents have access.
Although we understand it’s politically fashionable to pass emotion-based laws that both appeal to voters and provide good copy for media outlets, it’s not necessarily good government.
There are several problems with the “Facebook” law.
The cost of litigating this law will cost taxpayers a good sum, which will probably go unreported in the media.
It will hinder communication between students and teachers and infringes on their rights.
Enforcing the law will be, if possible, interesting and probably expensive. Will it take a court order to force a teacher to open their private website on their home computer?
Those individuals who would sexually harass or abuse a student probably won’t be stopped by a law; they’ll simply find another method. Since the verbiage being questioned appears to deal only with websites, is it legal for teachers to text or tweet their students if only a cellular phone is involved?
Maybe the best solution would be for parents to monitor their child’s usage of electronic media. Without camera phones, there would be no underage sexting problems. Without unfettered access to the internet, cyber-bullying would become as cliché as slam books and the writing on bathroom walls.
If policies limiting social media communication between students and teachers is necessary, it should be determined locally by individual school boards with the input of their citizenry, not by a “one size fits all, feel good law” that creates more problems than it solves.
To quote another Reagan, “Just say no.”