In response to a new Missouri law that regulates educators' use of social media, the Maplewood Richmond Heights Board of Education tried Thursday to figure out how to set up concrete policies on the issue.
Earlier this year, the Missouri General Assembly passed Senate Bill 54, known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, which goes into effect Aug. 28.
The act requires every school district to develop a written policy concerning teacher-student communication by Jan. 1.
At its regular Thursday meeting at , the board discussed how and when to create policies to meet the requirements of the law.
“The main task for the board at this point is to set up a committee to discuss how the district will set up policies to address the needs of SB 54,” district communications director Tom Wickersham said.
Before the meeting, board treasurer Nelson Mitten wrote a memo in which he expressed two concerns about the issue.
One has to do with the district’s closed Internet communications between students and teachers. Mitten said he sees it as a violation of the state law. He called into question a Google platform for high school and students.
“As I understand, students in the middle school and high school currently interface through Google on a website restricted only to students, teachers and administrators,” Mitten wrote in the memo.
Subsection 3 of the statute states: "No teacher shall establish, maintain, or use a work-related Internet site unless such site is available to school administrators and the child’s legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian."
Mitten suggested that the district-wide Google site violates the statute because parents do not have access to the website.
Another concern that Mitten raised: the timetable to take into effect policies. He noted that while the district may not be in violation of the law by not having policies, teachers may violate the act if they participate in prohibited activities in the interim. Some of the prohibitions include middle school and high school teachers adding their students as friends on Facebook.
Mitten proposed figuring out what the district will do in the next two weeks, rather than waiting until January.
Dr. Linda Henke, the district's superintendent, acknowledged the importance of setting up policies while cautioning board members to do sound homework instead of hastily developing them.
“We should have solid practice for the social media. I don’t want to rush to get the policies done,” she said.