Illinois Law Aims to Stop Cyberbullying by Invading Privacy

cyber_bullying

A new, controversial law in Illinois offers schools access to their students’ social media accounts in an effort to put a stop to cyberbullying.

Prior to the creation of the law, schools could only take action after an instance of bullying had occurred, such as a student taking to Twitter or Facebook during school hours.

The new law, which has been approved by state legislators, gives school districts and universities the right to force students to give their social media passwords.  According to the law, if a school has reasonable cause to believe that a particular social media account holds evidence that a student has violated school policy, even if it has occurred after school hours, they have the right to access that student’s account.

Officially, HB 4207 “prohibits a student from being subjected to bullying through the transmission of information from a computer that is accessed at a non-school-related location, activity, function or program…if the bullying substantially interferes with or limits the victim’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or opportunities offered by a school or substantially disrupts the educational process or orderly operation of a school”

Letters were sent home this week by some school districts to let parents know that schools were allowed “To get into a social networking site and it could be at a school or at home. That we would be able to get that password and get onto their account,” said Leigh Lewis Triad Community Unity School District Superintendent, writes Kelley Hoskins for Fox2Now.

Not everyone is happy with the law.  Some parents have raised concerns over the issue of privacy, reports Shellie Nelson for WQAD.

“It’s one thing for me to take my child’s social media account and open it up, or for the teacher to look or even a child to pull up their social media account, but to have to hand over your password and personal information is not acceptable to me , said Sara Bozarth.

In addition, some students believe that there needs to be a separation between school time and a student’s personal time, and what occurs during each.  “I think it’s an invasion of privacy to the extent that if a student wishes to share something with a university it should be to their discretion,” said Nathan Sterling.

The issue of cyber threats was recently addressed by President Barack Obama, who advocated strengthening laws that protect against identity theft while remaining strong on the issues of privacy and civil liberties.  Included in his proposal is the Student Digital Privacy Act, which would not allow companies to sell student information to third parties for purposes that are not educational.