MICHELE NORRIS, host: When the tornado devastated Joplin, teachers turned to Facebook to help locate students. A new measure could make that a bit more complicated. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon recently signed a bill into law that would ban exclusive contact on social networking sites between teachers and students. Senate Bill 54 passed with unanimous support. It was meant to prevent teachers from developing inappropriate relationships with their students. But to use Facebook parlance, not everyone is clicking the like button.
Randy Turner is one of them. He's an eighth grade English teacher at East Middle School in Joplin, and he joins me now. Welcome to the program, Mr. Turner.
RANDY TURNER: Thank you.
NORRIS: Now, this law goes into effect at the end of August. That's just in time for the start of the school year. Why is becoming a Facebook friend with one of your students important to their learning experience? What does it add? And is this something that you've done in the past?
TURNER: Yes, I was a little bit reluctant at first to do it because I'm an older teacher. But once I realized the value of being available for things as simple as having them send to me a first draft of one of my writing assignments, and me looking it over and tell them if they're heading in the right direction to, you know, having some kind of concern that they have at home about our work and, you know, not wanting to put it out there for everyone to see but wanting to get some feedback from the teacher.
NORRIS: And do you have to do that via a Facebook by friending someone? Couldn't you just use email?
TURNER: Well, what I have found is - and you're absolutely right, we could and probably a couple of years ago, that would've worked. But kids are rapidly abandoning email. Facebook is - at the moment, at least - the thing that they do, and very few of them are of communicating via old-fashioned email anymore.
NORRIS: So if you're on Facebook or one of these other social networking sites, who asks whom to be their friends? Do you first friend the student, or do you make contact with the student if they reach out to you? And is there some protocol for that?
TURNER: Personally, I will not ask a student to be a friend on Facebook. I will accept any student who wants to be a friend on Facebook.
NORRIS: If a teacher were to make direct contact with a student through one of these social networking sites, it would happen in a private space. And would a parent feel comfortable if a teacher was calling a student on a cell phone, rather than calling the home, where that call might be monitored, or something like this? I guess it's a question of something happening in daylight as opposed to darkness.
TURNER: Yeah, and I would say what needed to happen is that they need to make - and when I talk about that, I talk about the individual school districts - this policy they're talking about is a good idea. Teachers and students should not have inappropriate contact. And you know, every teacher has - in Missouri, has a morals clause in the contract, and I think this would fit into that. So I just don't see that this bill does anything to protect the children.
And, you know, if I were to look at this and say, well, this is going to protect a lot of kids, it would be foolish of me to be against it.
NORRIS: Randy Turner, thank you very much. All the best to you in the new school year.
TURNER: Thank you very much.
NORRIS: Randy Turner is an eighth grade English teacher at East Middle School in Joplin, Missouri.
MELISSA BLOCK, host: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.