Why I Voted No on the So-Called Facebook Fix

Last week, the Missouri Senate passed the so-called Facebook fix by unanimous vote. This morning, the Missouri House passed the bill by a vote of 139 to 2. I was one of the two. Here’s why:

The current law bans Internet communications, including Facebook, between teachers and students. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled it unconstitutional last month.  Everyone agreed the law had to be fixed. The right way to fix it would have been to just repeal the law. Instead, the so-called “fix” mandates that each of Missouri’s 529 different school districts adopt a policy of its own on “the use of electronic media” to “prevent improper communications between staff members and students.”

That’s a noble goal. But the devil’s in the details.

First, the vast majority most of the behavior this law attempts to stop is ALREADY illegal.  Elected officials have a tendency to react to bad things that happen in our society with an urge to just, “do something” to prove to the public that we care about the issue. The simple fact is that we can’t legislate immoral and criminal behavior out of our state by passing law after law to make it illegal. Making it criminal one time is enough.

Second, there’s a chance that this “fix” merely trades one unconstitutional state law for hundreds of unconstitutional local school board rules. My concern is for the teachers of this state who, rather than having to fight a single state statute now, may be left to their own devices to take on an unconstitutional rule at the local level. In addition, there’s the very real possibility that the “fix” will result in more litigation against school districts around the state on the same First Amendment issues that caused our state law to be struck as constitutional.

Does all this make me a stick in the mud? Probably. But I believe the First Amendment is the most important of all our constitutional rights, and it’s worth being a stick in the mud to defend the First Amendment rights of all Missourians.