Jan 172015
 January 17, 2015  Posted by  Laws, Online, U.S., Youth & Schools

Kelley Hoskins reports:

A new Illinois law aimed at stopping cyberbullying, gives schools access to kids (sic) social media accounts. Some say the law goes too far.

Previously  Illinois schools could take action against students if online bullying occurred,  such as something posted on Twitter or Facebook during the school day.

However, with the new law that Illinois legislators approved, school districts and universities in Illinois can demand a student’s social media password. The new law states if a  school has a reasonable cause to believe that a student’s account  on a social network contains evidence that a student has violated a schools (sic) disciplinary rule of policy.  Even if it’s posted after school hours.

Read more on FoxNews.

But color me puzzled, because if this news report refers to HB 4207 (Public Act 098-0801), I don’t see language in that bill that explicitly authorizes or requires schools to demand social media passwords for investigation of activities occurring outside of school. The bill states:

No student shall be subjected to bullying:
(1) during any school-sponsored education program or activity;
(2) while in school, on school property, on school buses or other school vehicles, at designated school bus stops waiting for the school bus, or at school-sponsored or school-sanctioned events or activities;
(3) through the transmission of information from a school computer, a school computer network, or other similar electronic school equipment or
(4) through the transmission of information from a computer that is accessed at a nonschool-related location, activity, function, or program or from the use of technology or an electronic device that is not owned, leased, or used by a school district or school if the bullying causes a substantial disruption to the educational process or orderly operation of a school. This item (4) applies only in cases in which a school administrator or teacher receives a report that bullying through this means has occurred and does not require a district or school to staff or monitor any nonschool-related activity, function, or program.

So have some districts or secondary institutions now decided that the requirement to have a cyberbullying policy that includes investigative procedures enables them to implement a policy allowing them to demand social media passwords, or am I missing something in the bill’s provisions? (UPDATE AND CORRECTION: Commenter Stephanie points us to another section of state law that permits schools to require passwords).

While the ACLU of Illinois endorsed another cyberbullying bill that passed last year, HB 5707, I do not see anything on their site about this law. I wonder if they will respond to this issues of schools demanding social media passwords to investigate off-campus activities or activities not involving school equipment or technology.

h/t, @PrivacyRightsIL

  11 Responses to “New Illinois law gives schools access to students’ social media passwords? (Updated)”

  1. You’re looking at the wrong part of the statute – Section 10 (a)-(d) describes the ability for the school to require disclosure of passwords when the “school has reasonable cause to believe that a student’s account on a social networking website contains evidence that the
    student has violated a school disciplinary rule or policy.”

  2. Thanks, Stephanie!

  3. Parents need to raise their children teach the right and wrong. Teachers have so many things to teach Social media Isnt one of them

  4. I don’t see this law surviving a challenge in court, the 5th amendment applies and literally destroys the state’s argument. A password is contained in the mind and nothing from the mind can be compelled.

    My advice to my children would be this simple phrase “No, I will not give you that, CALL MY DAD” and then be quiet.

    If the school thinks they can file charges then a warrant can be issued and the password is no longer important.

    On top of all that it violates the terms of service for those services..

  5. Well, let’s hope you’re right and some parent files the legal challenge – or the ACLU does.

  6. Illinois librarians were against this bill: “If the changes went into effect, virtually any kind of electronic communication could be considered bullying”.


  7. (105 ILCS 75/15)
    Sec. 15. Notification. An elementary or secondary school must provide notification to the student and his or her parent or guardian that the elementary or secondary school may request or require a student 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 if the elementary or secondary 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. The notification must be published in the elementary or secondary school’s disciplinary rules, policies, or handbook or communicated by similar means.
    (Source: P.A. 98-129, eff. 1-1-14.)

  8. ACLU of Illinois responded and clarified that the law does not permit schools to demand their student’s passwords. ACLU”s concerns focus on the law’s language that allow schools to investigate even if the bullying happens anywhere outside their borders.


  9. That seems to contradict the language of what another commenter quoted. See http://www.pogowasright.org/new-illinois-law-gives-schools-access-to-students-social-media-passwords/comment-page-1/#comment-142312

    But that law may have been amended or trumped by this new law?

  10. Here’s the whole thing to put it into context. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3504&ChapterID=17

  11. Yes, and look at the language in 75/15 where it says the school may REQUIRE….

    Post-secondary institutions are prohibited, but it still looks to me like elementary/k12 are permitted to require it. I’m not sure why the ACLU-IL is saying otherwise.

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