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29 September 2011

Rupp: Missouri Students One Step Closer To Better Protection in Our Schools

Last week, SB 1, otherwise known as the “Facebook law fix,” was passed by the Legislature and sent to the governor for his stamp of approval. This bill was formatted to fix a provision in the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act (passed during the 2011 regular session) regarding communication between public school students and employees.

As you likely know, after the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act (also known as SB 54) was signed by the governor, some confusion occurred regarding communication boundaries between students and staff members. As a result, a Missouri judge granted an injunction (lasting 180 days) against this communication provision in SB 54. The remaining provisions of the legislation took effect as scheduled on Aug. 28. To remedy any misinterpretations and ensure students are protected when communicating with educators, SB 1 was introduced during our special session, which began Sept. 6.

I have always supported the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, and am glad that we passed this measure to further clarify its importance for the well-being of young Missourians.

Under the bill, school districts would be required to submit a written policy regarding student-employee communication by March 1, 2012. Each district must include its position on the use of electronic media and the Internet, with the goal of preventing inappropriate communications between students and school employees. This provides school districts the flexibility to work with parents and configure a policy that works best for them and the students. The bill also repeals the prohibition of a teacher establishing, maintaining, or using a work-related Internet site unless it is available to school administrators and the child's guardian.

The bottom line is that the legislation prevents our kids from encountering inappropriate situations in our public schools. The young woman, whom the legislation is named after, was continually assaulted throughout her school years by an educator, and the teacher was able to continue his career unscathed. In addition, a report published in 2007 ranked Missouri as the 11th state in the country for educators losing their licenses due to sexual misconduct. We can’t allow our state to continue in this pattern. No child should fear going to school and feel uncomfortable in his or her learning environment. With parents, guardians, and school districts in the driver’s seat, we can sleep better knowing that effective and appropriate rules will be set in place that will weed out the bad apples from Missouri’s dedicated teachers and staff.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, please don’t hesitate to contact me at the information below:

Capitol Office
State Capitol Building, Room 418
Jefferson City , MO 65101
(573) 751-1282

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