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Mo. repeals teacher-student Internet restrictions

By DAVID A. LIEB

Associated Press

JEFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Friday repealing a contentious law that had limited online discussions between teachers and students and caused a judge to raise concerns that it infringed on free-speech rights.

Nixon’s action eliminates a law enacted earlier this year that barred teachers from using websites that allow “exclusive access” with students or former pupils age 18 or younger. Some teachers had raised concerns that they would be restricted from using social media sites such as Facebook, which allow private messages.

A judge temporarily blocked the law shortly before it was to take effect in August, declaring that it “would have a chilling effect” on free-speech rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. Nixon then added the law’s repeal to the agenda for a special session that began in September.

Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly for legislation repealing the state’s Internet restrictions for teachers. But the bill they sent to the governor also requires school districts to develop their own policies on the use of electronic media between employees and students.

Nixon said he signed the legislation with some hesitancy. The governor said school districts may find it challenging to develop policies that prevent improper communications without also preventing appropriation online conversations.

“This bill is not as good as it should be, but to veto it would return us to a bill that would be far worse,” Nixon said in a written statement announcing his decision.

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