No passwords for school investigations of students’ social media

A controversial law that allowed schools to request students’ social media passwords pursuant to an investigation has been reversed after Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 3527.

The original measure that allowed schools to request social media passwords while investigating cases like cyber bullying passed a previous General Assembly and took effect at the beginning of this year, but under the new provision signed by the governor schools can no longer demand the login info.

The bill’s chief sponsor in the House, Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago), says the measure strikes the right balance.

“So there are different ways the school can get the information but what they can’t do simply ask for the password and go off on their own and use that password.”

HB3527 Synopsis: Amends the Right to Privacy in the School Setting Act. In provisions allowing a school to request or require a student (or, in addition, his or her parent or guardian with respect to post-secondary schools) to provide a password or other related account information in order to gain access to the student’s account or profile on a social networking website (or, in addition, to demand access with respect to post-secondary schools) if the school has reasonable cause to believe that the student’s account on a social networking website contains evidence that the student has violated a school disciplinary rule or policy, provides that a school does not have reasonable cause unless a victim or concerned party, such as a parent or guardian, has filed a complaint with the school or school personnel have observed cyber-bullying taking place. Effective immediately.

Schools can still investigate social media for possible policy violations, just not from behind the secure wall of a user’s login, unless the student willing provides the info.

The new law is something Illinois Association of Principals’ Brian Schwartz says keeps students’ privacy paramount.

“We think it’s a much better bill and a much better law and will allow administrators — building level administrators — to investigate violations of school district policy but still allow and protect students’ privacy.”

The law signed by Gov. Rauner requires elementary and secondary schools to provide notification to the students and their parents or guardians of the updated measure.

Illinois News Network/Staff Reports

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