Is Senate Bill 54 the solution?
Hannah Cropf, Opinions Writer
September 14, 2011
Filed under Opposing Views
Over the years, social media has become part of how teachers and students interact with each other, but under Missouri Senate Bill 54, this electronic contact will end. Bill 54 from Sen. Jane Cunningham, prohibits teachers from engaging in private communication with students under the age of 18. Instead, public domain websites and school-based email addresses will be used.
In the past year, rape and sex abuse charges plagued a wrestling coach at Parkway West High School and a dance teacher at McKinley Classical Leadership Academy in St. Louis. According to a 2001 case study from the Counter Pedophilia Investigative Unit, an estimated 15 percent of students will suffer sexual abuse from their school staff during their academic career. Doesn’t it make sense to reduce the likelihood of such cases by whatever means necessary?
Bill 54 targets potential perpetrators where they are most likely to attack: private communication. Facebook chats and texting offer all the luxuries of one-on-one communication without the nonverbal, emotional element. In addition, with the new cultural phenomenon sexting, there’s no telling what kind of dirty messages teachers could send students before the two even meet in private. With this bill, the government limits the chances for teachers to initiate dangerous contact.
Leaves time to adapt
One common misconception regarding Bill 54 is its official starting date. The controversial clause regarding private communication won’t go into effect now until Feb. 20, 2012. This gives lawmakers time to tweak the bill and students and teachers time to work out a new system of communication. Rather than complaining about a law that has yet to take effect, school administrations should educate students of the nuances of the bill to address the present confusion. After all, the best way to deal with change is to adapt.
Bill 54 doesn’t close communication between teachers and students, it simply limits it. Texting and social media are privileges that, like all privileges, can be abused. By setting restrictions, the government establishes boundaries to keep innocent people out of trouble, while still leaving enough room to enjoy the benefits of modern technology.
A fine line exists between rape prevention and paranoia. Bill 54 may aim to stop sex abuse in Missouri schools, but it ultimately overgeneralizes a complicated issue.
Ignores positive interactions
Bill 54 is more than a matter of inconvenience. It fails to take into account the possibility of positive interactions between teachers and students outside school walls. The legislation stipulates that even if a minor wants to keep in touch with his/her teacher after graduation, he/she will have no choice but to wait until he/she turns 19. Even then, the laws leave a gray area as far as how much contact is acceptable, since restrictions vary by district.
Good intentions aren’t always followed
True, the bill has good intentions, but so did Prohibition. By abolishing the manufacture and sale of alcohol, the federal government could curb death rates, domestic violence, and overall stupidity, right? But it didn’t. People who wanted desperately to drink alcohol found ways around the law. The same goes for sex offenders. How will this bill stop predators if they aren’t even fazed by the fact that statutory rape is illegal?
Overreaction to the issue
A perverted text message from a teacher is traumatizing, but it can be reported. A text can be traced back to the sender, leading police officers to the perpetrator. In fact, text messages provide some of the best solid evidence in these sorts of situations, because unlike a spoken conversation, they provide concrete proof of an otherwise clandestine affair. To block all texts from teachers to students is equivalent to shutting down an entire bakery because one cake was burnt, leaving no way of knowing which baker or bakers caused the scandal.
No matter how noble the cause for Bill 54, the document fails to understand or address the problem of teacher-student rape, and in the process, overlooks positive relationships and nuances in modern communication. #