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25 August 2011

Neth: Special Session Ahead, Facebook Controversy, Nixon Visits LNHS

I hope you are keeping cool as we endure another round of extreme heat here in the heartland. It is an understatement to say that we have endured some heat this summer.

Over the past few months I have been working on some legislation and having meetings with people in the district, but most of all, I have had a great summer with my family. The previous summer was filled with working on my election and my wife finishing graduate school, so family time was not prevalent. This year, though, we have been able to do a lot of things together and do some travelling as well. Our big thing was a classic road trip to the west that included the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam and many other sights- 3100 miles total. It was a lot of driving but gave us memories that will last a lifetime. Probably the best thing was to experience that portion of the country with my kids and talk about the vastness of the west and how it is a great part of the United States.

There has been a lot of things happen statewide in the last few months that I will discuss in this update. These include the upcoming Special Session called by the Governor to work on uncompleted economic development legislation and tax credit reform; some great honors for the City of Liberty; and some discussion on the recent controversy on the Education legislation passed last session and its effect on electronic communication and Facebook.

Most schools are now in session and Fall is near. I know I am happy to be back on a normal school schedule at home. This new school years sees my daughter in High School (wow!) and actively involved there, my son attending a new school for his 5th grade year and my wife continuing her role as 3rd grade teacher. A lot going on, but I wouldn't have it any other way.


Special Session 2011

The Missouri Constitution allows for the Governor to call the legislature back into session after its Regular session is complete. Thus is the case this year as we have been called back on September 6. The primary objective will be to work on and hopefully pass some sweeping economic development legislation as well as some major tax credit reform. You can read more information on some of the details here.

Overall I am in favor of what we will try to accomplish in the Special Session. MOSIRA and the Data Center package are two things that can directly impact the 34th District in a positive way and the tax credit reform proposed is something long overdue. Some of the other items, such as Aerotropolis which benefits only St. Louis, are a little more difficult for me to accept, but will do so if we can get the rest of the package done.

Liberty Honors

The city of Liberty has been on a roll recently with some high profile honors. First was recognition from Family Circle Magazine and Liberty being chosen the 3rd most family friendly city in the nation. Money Magazine then awarded Liberty the distinction of being the 7th most livable city in the nation. I am proud to call Liberty home and to represent it.

Governor Visits Liberty

I accompanied Governor Nixon as he spent the morning of August 25 in the Liberty area. First at Continental Disk company recognizing their growing firm and the amount of exports they have. Next he visited Liberty North High School to highlight the state's A+ Program and LNHS getting A+ certification its first year in existence.

Facebook Controversy

There has been much discussion in the press regarding a new law recently passed- Senate Bill 54 or the Amy Hestir Protection Act. It is named after a student who was repeatedly sexually abused by her teacher, and in which the teacher was subsequently hired by numerous school districts before retiring. Prior to the law going into effect, school districts feared being sued for sharing information about former employees, and as a result, many teachers were able to transfer districts without having information about misconduct disclosed.

To put an end to this practice, the new law requires criminal background checks for teacher applicants, allows school districts to share information with other districts regarding sexual misconduct by their employees, and makes districts liable if they fail to disclose information regarding misconduct upon request by another district.

Although this was the focus of the new law, there were other provisions related to teacher/student contact, and specifically internet communication. Lately there has been much discussion related to how this might relate to Facebook communication and other forms of electronic communication. Here are some of the key points from that section:
  • Senate Bill 54 requires all school districts to adopt policies relating to student-teacher internet communication. These policies must be adopted no later than January of 2011.
  • The law requires school districts to adopt policies which prohibit "exclusive communication" between teachers and students on internet websites. In other words, all communication between teachers and students on the internet must be accessible to parents and administrators.
  • These policies DO NOT prohibit online communication between teachers and students unless the communication is not accessible to parents and administrators.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 154-0 and the Senate by a vote of 34-0. It is also important to note that this bill has been under consideration in the legislature for the past four years, and this year, was supported by the following groups: Missouri State Teachers' Association, Missouri National Education Association, Missouri School Boards Association, American Federation of Teachers of Missouri. (As a note, the MSTA has recently filed a suit to stop the implementation of the law after their initial support.)

I am hopeful that school districts will work hard to find common sense guidelines that do not prohibit useful internet communication. Given the fast pace of change in this new world of communication, we need to be flexible enough to recognize the positive of electronic communication while recognizing the need to protect the appropriate relationship between teachers and students.

Like all legislation, there is a chance of unintended consequences from its implementation and interpretation. If that is the case, I am confident the legislature will work to correct and ensure the law does what it is intended to do- protect our children.

Upcoming Local Events

Liberty Fall Festival September 23-25

William Jewell College Homecoming October 7-9

Liberty Farmers Market Every Saturday through October

Check out your local High School sports schedules. Great Friday night football and other sports.
Liberty Public Schools, North Kansas City Schools

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