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03 November 2011

Rupp: Governor Signs Student Protection Bill

Last week, our special session officially adjourned with a sine die motion, meaning the full Senate will not meet again until the Second Regular Session of the 96th General Assembly begins on Jan. 4, 2012. The Legislature successfully passed two measures, and both were signed by the governor on Friday, Oct. 21. Senate Bill 1 will take effect on Jan. 19, 2012 — 90 days after the governor’s signature. The act clarifies provisions found in the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act (SB 54), which was signed by the governor over the summer and emphasizes the importance of protecting our children in public schools.

Senate Bill 1 was formed when confusion occurred regarding bill language found in SB 54, which addressed communication boundaries between public school students and school district employees. A judge issued an injunction (lasting 180 days) to stop this communication provision from taking effect, while the rest of SB 54 went into effect on its scheduled date on Aug. 28.

While many lawmakers, myself included, applauded the original Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, we realized that several concerned parties — including parents, guardians, and teachers — needed clarification regarding the limitations of public school student-employee communication.

Senate Bill 1 repealed language stating that teachers (or other school employees) could only use methods of electronic communication with students if the exchanges were accessible to school administrators and the child’s parent/guardian. The new law puts school districts and guardians in control by allowing the school district to draft its own policy addressing student-employee communication, and how to prevent sexual abuse in learning environments.

The young lady whom the original legislation is named for was continually molested by a teacher throughout her junior high years. That educator was able to continue a teaching career without a scratch, and even won a “Teacher of the Year” award before retirement. It is absolutely unacceptable to let children suffer like this. We have many dedicated, hard-working individuals employed in our public schools, and we have a responsibility to not let any bad apples get mixed in with this group.

In the meantime before the 2012 regular session begins, I will be working to draft quality legislation that will benefit our great state of Missouri.

As always, if you have any inquiries regarding this issue or any other matter within state government, please feel free to e-mail me or call my office toll-free at (866) 271-2844. You can also visit my website at Here, you can keep up to date on all my columns, press releases, and multimedia postings.

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