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Missouri State Teachers Association Offers Model Communications Policy to Districts

Art Credit: KC Education Enterprise | Photo Credit: 123rf stock image | Logo Credit: Missouri State Teachers Association

It drew national attention earlier this year, and a Missouri judge said it was most likely unconstitutional. “It” was a provision of the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act regulating online communications among public school employees and students. The Missouri General Assembly passed the legislation, and Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law last summer.

Because of concerns that this one provision of an otherwise uncontroversial law might violate teachers’ First Amendment Rights, the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) sued the state. In response to the lawsuit, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon E. Beetem issued a preliminary injunction, describing the potential violation of free speech as “staggering.”

During a special session this fall, the General Assembly fixed the problem by doing away with the controversial provision and replacing it with one requiring each Missouri district to enact its own electronic communications policy no later than March 1, 2012. And some local districts, such as Liberty, have already started approving policies.

Earlier this fall, MSTA issued a statement expressing concern that now it may have to defend free speech rights in every district. In the meantime, the organization has continued pressing its suit against the state.

Yesterday, the teachers’ association released a model policy it has distributed for the consideration of school district superintendents across Missouri. You can read the complete text of the model policy here: http://www.msta.org/files/comm_policy.pdf

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About jwmartinez

JoLynne is a journalist and educator. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Park University and is certified to teach high school journalism and English. Former employment includes work for Cable News Network and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in addition to freelancing for clients such as the Kansas City Star and The Pitch.

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