Head to Head: A tweet away from suspension

With the issue of cyber bullying becoming more relevant, Illinois school districts have started to quietly eliminate their students’ right to privacy by requiring access to students’ social media passwords, according to the Washington Post. This law, however, has caused controversy over concern for student privacy and for good reason.  It’s one thing for authorities to observe what employees or students are posting on social media. It’s surely another to think they have the automatic right to simply demand what is quite obviously personal information.

In 2013, Illinois passed a law requiring schools to ask elementary and secondary students to provide passwords to their social media accounts to use when they feel students are violating a policy or rule. This new law recently went to affect. One school district, the Triad Community Unit School District #2, has already sent out letters to parents explaining the new policy.

“I think people should have their privacy. Even though it is on the public internet and it is very hard to keep our lives private, administration should not have the right to have our passwords,” senior Zach Mullins said.

Electronic devices have given students the freedom to enhance their education experience and communicate with peers using social media. Social media is a place for students to express their opinions and check out mentally from the daily stresses of being a teenager. Although it is ethical for schools to browse public social media platforms, demanding access to passwords infringes on personal data.

“The district understands student privacy interests,” Superintendent Leigh Lewis told The Washington Post, “and will not haphazardly request social media passwords unless there is a need and will certainly involve parents throughout the process.”

The administration of the schools are against this bill as well as some of the lawmakers. Bills prohibiting schools from accessing social media passwords have also been introduced in Indiana, Hawaii, Ohio, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. In the past, laws similar to this one in Illinois such as an anti-cyberbullying law in Albany County, New York, have been said to be unconstitutional.

The bill states that “Section 15… School must provide notification to the student to his or her parent or guardian that the elementary school may request or require a student to provide a password or related account information in order to gain access to the student’s account…” according to the Illinois General Assembly.

This new policy gives schools the right to demand passwords from students and gives school districts the power to have complete access to your social media accounts. I understand school districts monitoring students public posts, but having your password is overstepping it. Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities — something to which all users agree to when signing up — has a section 4.8 which reads: “You will not share your password, let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.” Cyber bullying is very dangerous and a terrible thing, but does that mean students should give up their basic rights? There has to be a boundary when it concerns student lives and privacy.