Anti-Teacher Bill Would Have Thwarted Teachers' Hunt for Students During Joplin Tornado
For the past week, in addition to posting as much news as I possibly can on my blog, The Turner Report, about the horrific tornado that changed the lives of Joplin residents forever, I have been doing whatever I can to help students who have been injured or had family members injured, or who have lost their homes and their belongings.
For many of them, I, or some other classroom teacher, have been a link between the current nightmarish reality and the much more reassuring past. Some have wanted to talk to us about the tornado and some have wanted to talk to us about anything but what happened Sunday.
They have all wanted to talk and the teachers of the Joplin R-8 School District have been there for them.
The glue that has held together our school community has been social networking. The school district has used its Facebook and Twitter accounts to communicate with the public, and offered its Facebook page as a means for students and staff to communicate that they are alive and well, or at least as well as can be expected in the post-apocalyptic existence in which we find ourselves.
Many students and parents, however, do not make a habit of checking out the school district's Facebook page. That is one of those official pages that teenagers avoid like the plague.
They do check in with their Facebook friends, and during these last few days, as Joplin R-8 staff began the recovery process by trying to account for every student, Mark Zuckerberg's creation was a godsend.
Teachers contacted their student Facebook friends and thus were able to make sure they were all right, and to cross them off a long list so we can continue our quest to make sure that every one of our students is safe.
Earlier today, I helped find about a dozen Joplin High School freshmen who had been unaccounted for, because they were on my lengthy list of students and former students who have added me as a Facebook friend.
Had this tornado happened a few months later, this would not have been possible. When Aug. 28 arrives, I and every Missouri teacher will have to remove all students and former students (until they graduate from high school) from our Facebook friend list.
The so-called Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, SB 54 which has been pushed by Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, for the past few years, finally passed this year, incredibly with no opposition, not even one vote against it, in either the Senate or the House.
After all, what right thinking legislator could vote in favor of those horrible, perverted classroom teachers who apparently, though I have never seen any evidence of it, lurk around every corner, in every Missouri public school, waiting for opportunities to strip impressionable children of their innocence.
I cannot even to begin to fathom the kind of thinking that leads anyone, much less a state senator and Congressional candidate, to bear such loathing and disgust for people who put their hearts and souls into helping children succeed. What kind of a mind is cluttered with such disturbing images?
The Amy Hestir Student Protection Act is an unnecessary bill. It is purportedly a means to tightening lax laws that permit teachers to go from school district to school district sexually violating students. Obviously, it does happen, though Mrs. Cunningham's continuous effort to make it seem that there are perverts behind every classroom door, would make you think that it is an everyday occurrence.
It is not and we teachers, more than anyone, including Jane Cunningham, want those who bring shame to our profession removed from the classroom forever. And thankfully, we already have strong laws, toughened just about 15 years ago to take care of these people. Those who are "passing the trash" as Mrs. Cunningham so eloquently puts it, are already breaking the law.
And why in the world did she think it was necessary to bar students and teachers from communicating through Facebook? Is her mind so steeped in filth that she cannot imagine that there are educational purposes to social networking, and that some of the children she insists she is protecting, the same children whose protections she would have eliminated with SB 222 (you know, the one that would have struck down child labor laws) are the ones who most need a friend who is there to help and protect them?
This bill is not a law yet. Gov. Jay Nixon has not signed it. It should be vetoed, but since 2012 is an election year, it would be hard to vote against toughening laws against the hordes of perverted classroom teachers in Missouri.
But considering what has happened in Joplin the past three days, and the importance that someone show children how to use social networking responsibly, the least the governor can do is to use his line item veto and remove the prohibition against teachers and students communicating through social networking sites.
We all hope and pray that no other school district ever has to suffer what Joplin has suffered this week. But if it does happen, school officials and classroom teachers should have the most powerful tools at their disposal.
We keep on hearing how our students need to be prepared for the challenges of the 21st Century. They will never be able to meet those challenges as long as those who make the laws continue to believe that all good things in society ended with the Puritans.