Using the headline "Safeguarding kids online trumps threat from storms," the News-Leader editorial says it is so important that students be protected from teacher predators that Gov. Nixon should sign the bill:
We acknowledge and applaud how the venue was used to pass along important information and find friends and loved ones, as well as to organize volunteers, donations and even counter protests.What kind of logic is that? Where is the evidence of how many of those children were reached through social networking sites? I totally agree that the sexual exploitation of children cannot be ignored, but there is nothing in the social networking provision (or in the rest of the bill for that matter) that does anything to improve that situation.
But we also know that sexual predators have and will use such media to prey on young children, so we support a bill sponsored by state Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, that would restrict private e-communication between teachers and students.
The May 22 tornado that struck Joplin was a one-time disaster, but the sexual exploitation of children is an ongoing disaster that cannot be ignored. In 2010, 110 children under age 18 were known victims, according to the Missouri Sex Offender Registry.
The only people who will be penalized by this provision are the students and teachers who have used Facebook and other social networking sites properly. Those teachers who bring shame on all of us will either find other methods of getting through to their prey (proximity is their greatest weapon, but there are still many other avenues of reaching children) or they will simply ignore the law. It is obviously not going to be that easy to enforce.
Just like Joplin residents who now have to get prescriptions to get medicine containing pseudoephedrine just because a minority are abusing it by making meth, the only ones who are punished are those who would never consider breaking the law.
The News-Leader encourages Gov.Nixon to sign the bill, using these words:
It is an important tool that includes several provisions aimed at curbing predatory adults who work with children in our schools.I totally agree, but this bill does nothing to accomplish that goal. A much wiser avenue would be to enforce the ones we already have on the books and begin throwing the book at those who break those laws. Far too many times, we have seen teachers not even being charged with crimes or being given probation for sexual offenses with students.
Those predators are the real disaster.
Just as we have emergency plans to keep our children safe from storms, we must have plans to keep them safe from adults who would also leave destruction in their path.
A law addressing that might have done some good, but that would have been targeted at judges and prosecuting attorneys and those are not Sen. Jane Cunningham's targets.
This legislation, just like many of the other bills she has sponsored over the years, is aimed directly at teachers.
Fortunately, for teachers who believe in the educational value of social networking, the News-Leader editorial board, in its infinite wisdom has a solution to the problem:
News-Leader reporter Roseann Moring shared one Joplin teacher's plea that the bill, which is on the governor's desk now, be vetoed in light of how useful social media sites were following the tornado. Teachers were able to determine the well being of students who could not be reached any other way.What an idea. An official, school-sanctioned page for students to go to for information. What student would not want to visit that site?
We appreciate that concern but, as Cunningham pointed out, schools should plan ahead for such unexpected disasters. School-sponsored Facebook pages, monitored by district personnel, provide a reasonable way for teachers to interact with students in a safe and public environment.
Obviously, it has been at least a half century since the members of the News-Leader's Editorial Board have been students. That is the last place most students want to go.
The tornado that devastated this city May 22 was an easy angle for the story on the Jane Cunningham bill and it was one worth exploring, but this has never been about the tornado. The use of Facebook after that horrific event was simply the best example possible of the power of using social media responsibly.
Teachers have been using Facebook and other social networking sites effectively with students for a long time and though I am sure they exist, I have yet to hear of one using it irresponsibly. Sadly, other positive uses of social networking, and there are many, have not been explored by the media and probably never will be.