Five ideas: What are your thoughts on these items in the news this week?

Saturday, February 2, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:50 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Student-teacher interaction online

A committee at the Missouri House of Representatives has proposed a bill that would ban teachers from communicating with students via Web pages that are private, including Facebook and MySpace.

The bill is an attempt to restrict teacher-student online interaction to “work-related” Web sites and to keep sex offenders from teaching in Missouri schools.

Essentially, any Web site that parents could also see would be OK for students and teachers to use. Anything inaccessible to third parties would be a no-no.

The legislation was inspired by events at Warrensburg High School, where six female students accused a coach of sexual misconduct.

The bill also would bar anyone who had committed second- or third-degree sexual misconduct from being hired as a teacher. House committee members say it will fill in the gaps left by current background check requirements.

Will giving parents access to student-teacher communications online make students safer?

In the running for governor

Six Missouri politicians have announced or said they were thinking about running for governor since Gov. Matt Blunt announced his decision over a week ago to not seek re-election. Four remain in the race.

Republican Rod Jetton, speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, announced Wednesday that he had decided not to run, and put his support with U.S. Congressman Kenny Hulshof, also a Republican.

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat who had announced that she was considering candidacy, also announced Wednesday that she would not run for governor and will instead pursue re-election in her current position.

Republicans will choose between Sarah Steelman, the state treasurer; Peter Kinder, the current lieutenant governor; and Hulshof. Jay Nixon, the state’s attorney general, is the only Democrat in the running.

Each candidate has a prominent position in the government, but also one that is drastically different from his or her opponents.

What experience and qualifications do you think are important for Missouri’s next governor?

Sheriff’s department statistics

This week, the Boone County Sheriff’s Department released its 2007 statistics for traffic stops, as required by state law. Their report said that police searched 16 percent of black drivers they had stopped, 14 percent of Hispanic drivers and 9 percent of white drivers.

The report from the previous year showed the department searched 15 percent of black drivers they stopped, 11 percent of Hispanic drivers and 10 percent of white drivers.

Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey said the changes in statistics were caused by an attempt to focus the department’s attention on troubled areas, identified by drug intelligence, reported shots fired and similar statistics.

Carey also said that the process succeeded in making significant drug warrant arrests.

Organizations such as National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have voiced concern in the past about the disproportionate number of black people who get searched.

However, Carey told the Missourian he felt “very comfortable” saying that the department does not racially profile.

John Galliher, professor of sociology at MU, said the statistics might be a reflection of institutionalized racism pervasive in American society.

To what extent do you believe race is a factor in law enforcement?

Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ

The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau is asking the City Council to approve a $100,000 expenditure to bring the Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ festival back to Columbia in October.

The request would be for one-time financial assistance. The Convention and Visitors Bureau Advisory Board voted 10-0 to recommend the council approve the funding. The money would come from the bureau’s unreserved fund balance, which is made up of unspent yearly revenues.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau has a festival and event fund, but grants from that fund are capped at $15,000 per event.

Festival organizers say they need the money because the festival is only in its second year and that it’s difficult for such events to gain regional and national sponsorships until at least the third year. Last year’s event, which was funded by Boone County National Bank in celebration of the bank’s 150th anniversary, attracted nearly 70,000 people.

This year’s festival would remain free to the public and have a similar format to last year’s, with three stages in downtown Columbia.

What do you think of spending $100,000 on the return of Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ?

Authority over high school activities

The Missouri Department of Education would take over many of the duties currently held by the Missouri State High School Activities Association if a bill discussed this week passes.

MSHSAA, a private organization, oversees almost everything dealing with high school athletics, along with debate and music-related activities. The organization has drawn criticism that it is a private organization making decisions about public funds.

Scott Muschany, chairman of the Special Committee on Student Achievement, said the bill would be about making decisions about high school activities more accountable to the public.

MSHSAA is strongly opposed to the idea of the bill and maintains that no matter who is making decisions, there will always be disagreements.

What are the benefits of transferring authority over school activities to a state agency versus allowing an independent organization to be in charge?

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