Groups react to the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act

Missouri teachers, students and parents try and claim that this new law is unconstitutional.

The Amy Hestir Student Protection Act has stirred controversy from a variety of groups, students, parents and teachers, including many college students.

The bill was signed into law in late July. Its goal is to limit outside social interaction between teachers and students in grades K-12 in Missouri public schools. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, and has received a lot of negative feedback from community members raising questions the bill does not specifically address.

Missouri State University freshman Cameron Carlson and Marquette High School graduate started a Facebook group “Students, Parents, and Teachers Against MO Senate Bill #54, Sec.162.069”, which has been rapidly growing since it was created. It currently has more than 950 members.

“I am very surprised at the rapid growth of the group,” Carlson said. “As we approach 1,000 members, it strikes me that this isn’t a student standing up for what is right or wrong, but a community of people coming together to make this flawed education system better.” Carlson said the Facebook group also started a petition.

“We have a petition started by the group showing the strong support and backbone of the group,” Carlson said. “(We’ve started) a letter writing campaign to our legislators, letter writing campaign to our school districts, consulted with the (American Civil Liberties Union) in legislative proceeding, and also, we have contacted the legal team of the (Missouri National Education Association) in combination with the ACLU in fighting this section of the bill.”

Carlson said he also contacted the Missouri State Teachers Association about the legislation and MSTA recently filed a lawsuit to have that portion of the bill changed.

Aaron Malin, administrator of the Facebook group and fellow graduate of Marquette High School, is optimistic about a preliminary injunction that would stop the bill, preventing its implementation until after the court had reviewed it.

“The courts will come down on our side and determine it’s unconstitutional. It infringes on teachers' rights,” he said.

Malin said he thinks the bill would be hard to enforce.

“It is also ineffective,” he said. “It targets a large group who haven’t done anything wrong.”

Malin also talked about how this would have affected his own high school experience, as well, saying that being part of a team, athletic or otherwise, would have nearly been impossible to sustain without frequent contact via texting and Facebook.

The rest of the members of the group feel similarly displeased, but officials who support the bill seem to be willing to make changes, compromise and improvise.

“The bill is only about the inappropriate uses of the Internet,” Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said in a previous interview with The Maneater. “If there are any minor glitches here and there, we’re very open to working on them."

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