The Triad Community Unit School District 2 in the southern part of Illinois recently sent a letter to parents claiming that state law can force a child to give their social media passwords to school officials.
The school district cites a new 2015 state law that prohibits cyberbulling, even if the equipment used for bullying is not owned by the school.
Vice.com reports that the letter states:
"If your child has an account on a social networking website, e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, ask.fm, etc., please be aware that State law requires school authorities to notify you that your child may be asked to provide his or her password for these accounts to school officials in certain circumstances."
"School authorities may require a student or his or her parent/guardian to provide a password or other related account information in order to gain access to his/her account or profile on a social networking website if school authorities have reasonable cause to believe that a student’s account on a social networking website contains evidence that a student has violated a school disciplinary rule or procedure."
A similar letter was generated by the Illinois Principals Association.
However, the state law doesn't actually say that schools may force students or parents to give up social media passwords.
According to SputnickNews.com, the law HB 4207 "prohibits a student from being subjected to bullying through the transmission of information from a computer that is accessed off school property or from the use of technology or an electronic device that is not owned by a school district if the bullying substantially interferes with or limits the victim's ability to participate in opportunities offered by a school.”
The school district is standing by its letter.
“If we're investigating any discipline having to do with social media, then we have the right to ask for those passwords,” Leigh Lewis, superintendent of the Triad district, told Vice.com.
"I would imagine that turning it over to the police would certainly be one way to go," said Lewis. "If they didn't turn over the password, we would call our district attorneys because they would be in violation of the law. That would only be in some cases, we'd certainly look at the facts and see what we're dealing with before we make the decision."
Lewis also claimed that schools are in "the business of protecting kids," however, schools are not law enforcement agencies, and even the police are required to get warrants for searches.
CNET reports that the school's claims may violate Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which says: "You will not share your password (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account."