Mrs. Cunningham has said, quite correctly, that the bill passed unanimously in both houses of the Missouri Legislature because it had the support of the state’s largest teacher organizations, MNEA and MSTA.
That is because both organizations were keeping their eyes on provisions in the so-called Amy Hestir Davis Student Protection Act that would keep districts from “passing the trash,” or allowing teachers accused of sexual relations with students to quietly resign and then go to work in some other school district.
MSTA and MNEA confined its concerns to that part of the bill centering their concerns on whether accused teachers would receive due process.
Neither, as far as I can determine, ever even told its members about the social networking aspects of the bill, which would prevent teachers from communicating with their students and former students (including their own children). It has been obvious from MNEA's bobbing and weaving since the effects of the Facebook provision became evident that it is doing its best to save face, a stance which could wind up hurting the very teachers who pay the dues that allow the organizations to exist.
MSTA has bounced back and is representing its membership by filing a lawsuit seeking either a temporary or a permanent injunction against this bill. MNEA has taken a different, more disturbing approach.
MNEA is now working with Mrs. Cunningham to “clarify” the bill to get fixes made during an upcoming legislative special session and indicating it has been aware of the problems for some time. In a self-serving press release issued Monday, MNEA said the following:
"Clean up bills are sometimes necessary and special session could provide an opportunity for a quick fix,” said Otto Fajen, Legislative Director for Missouri NEA. "If the education community and sponsor of the original legislation can find a commonsense solution, we will formally ask the Governor to consider the legislation for a special session.”
All major education groups with a lobbyist at the capitol testified in support of the bill. One teacher group that testified for the bill now claims their leaders did not read the legislation as it was crafted, and has since filed a lawsuit against the State of Missouri.
"We did read the bill," Fajen noted, "and we asked lead legislators to make adjustments to the electronic communication section in question. However, that didn't happen prior to passage. We hope that by acting during the September special session, we'll have a chance to bring clarity to the issue before local school boards are required to adopt policies in January.
If Fajen is correct and MNEA had concerns about the bill, then why weren’t those concerns relayed to its membership. Legislative updates sent to members throughout the 2011 session made no mention of these concerns, but simply said MNEA supported the Cunningham bill.
If that were MNEA’s standard modus operandi then that would not be a problem, but concerns with other bills were mentioned routinely throughout the session.
Not only did MNEA not express any concerns about this bill during the 2011 session, but as far as I can remember, it has never said anything about the social networking aspect of this bill which Mrs. Cunningham has rolled out year after year since 2008.
When a bill targets all teachers as perverts as this does, and Mrs. Cunningham continues to make the same accusation is one interview after another, it is time that MNEA started standing up for its membership and stopped attempting to appease someone who has made it clear that she intends to do everything she can to bring down public schools and classroom teachers.
(Note: I am a member of Missouri NEA.)