The Illinois Legislature has enacted a new law in an attempt to combat cyber bullying. While under the Right to Privacy in the School Setting Act, a school generally cannot require a student to hand over their social media account passwords, the Illinois legislature has created an exception.
The new bill, which was signed into law in 2013 and went into effect January 1, 2015, allows elementary and secondary schools to request passwords for student’s social media accounts if the school has reasonable cause to believe the account has evidence that the student violated a disciplinary rule or policy.
In order for the schools to properly adhere to the new law, the schools must provide notification to students, and their parents or guardians, that the school may request social media passwords to gain access to the students account should they believe that the account contains evidence of a disciplinary violation. The Act further requires the notification be published in the schools disciplinary rules, policies, handbook, or communicated through similar means.
Refusal Could Lead To Criminal Charges
A student, or parent/guardian who refuses to give the student’s social media account information to the properly requesting authorities can be viewed in violation of the law, leading to potential criminal penalties.
The response to the new legislation has been mixed. Some believe the new law sends a strong message that cyber bullying will not be tolerated while others feel that it impedes on the student’s right to privacy. The schools’ right to request passwords and search social media accounts is not limited to posts during school hours and can extend to posts any time and off of school grounds.
While this law is anticipated to be challenged as a violation of a student’s right to privacy, it is currently in good standing and can be enforced.