Editorial: New administration policy is an invasion of student privacy

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Administrators can now request that students share their passwords to social media sites, according to a new law passed in Illinois that took effect Jan. 1. All school administrators need to gain this information is reasonable suspicion that the student has been breaking school rules on the website.
The Stampede Editorial Board believes that this law is unnecessary and an invasion of privacy.
This law was created in an effort to help schools fight cyber bullying, which we recognize as a serious cause of concern in modern schools, but this law will not help administrators stop teen bullying online.
Anyone with a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account knows that there is little you can see while logged in that your friends/followers can’t see. Schools are able to access harmful public posts simply by viewing them online, making a password useless.
One of the only thngs accessible to someone logged in that is not accessible to the public is direct messages. In the case of cyber bullying, this too is irrelevant, since the victim would have access to any threatening or degrading messages sent to them, and therefore would be able to show the administration when reporting the cyber bullying. Why does it matter if the messages are accessed on the victim or the perpetrator’s social media account?
Some may argue that the victim may not be a part of the message, such as in the case of a group message targeting a third party student. There is also the consideration of a student messaging others about violence threats. However, there is a difference between cyber bullying and gossiping, and while both are morally reprehensible, one is a crime punishable by law while the other is merely a part of our high school society.
Some students may have their social media on private, but the school would still be able to see their account if they were logged in using the victim’s account or any friend/follower of the suspected cyber bully. Requiring a student’s password does not allow a school to see anything they would not be able to see from the account of the student reporting the abuse, but merely allows schools to perform a gross invasion of privacy with merely what they deem to be reasonable suspicion.
Prior to this law, schools in Illinois needed to get a subpoena from a judge, presenting their evidence of suspicion to be able to request a password from a student. Although this process takes a lot longer, it also protects students’ personal rights by providing that someone not affiliated with the school agrees that requesting the password is necessary.
This is the same process the police must go through when searching a suspect’s house, and, although schools can search student’s backpacks with merely reasonable suspicion, as decided in New Jersey v. TLO, physical items that could be in a student’s backpack present a much more immediate danger than anything posted online. Giving schools complete control over a social media account, accounts which so many students view as a direct reflection of themselves as people, is an unacceptable invasion of privacy, especially when nothing can be gained from having control over an account.

By the Stampede Editorial Board