Illinois Schools Now Have Terrifying Access to Kids' Social Media Passwords

To quell cyber-bullying, administrators would abolish privacy.

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Bullying
Marisa Ravn

Illinois public schools have gained worrisome new powers over their students: A new law combats cyber-bullying by giving administrators the right to demand access to students' social media accounts—even if the online activities took place outside of school.

Previously, administrators could only ask students for their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram passwords if the kids were using these services to bully each other during school hours, according to KTVI. But the new policy gives administrators nearly unlimited authority to violate students' privacy "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 disciplinary rule of policy."

While school officials should make sure that no student is being subjected to physical harm or threats, efforts to prevent bullying often cross the line into invasion of privacy and violation of free speech. After-school disputes between kids are best handled by their parents, or by the police, if they are truly criminal in nature. And since instances of "bullying" are rarely as crystal clear as these laws assume—many kids occasionally treat others poorly, and are also mistreated by others at the same time—nobody benefits when prying administrators are granted license to police students' personal, non-school internet activity. Nor should school officials be generally trusted to apply this policy in a manner that is consistent with students' First and Fourth Amendment rights.

One more thing: the law, which took effect on January 1st, technically applies to university students as well. But I'm sure no university personnel would ever use such a law for nefarious purposes.

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48 responses to “Illinois Schools Now Have Terrifying Access to Kids' Social Media Passwords

  1. Or else what? Isn’t it against most usage policies to sign into an account that you don’t own?

    1. I predict that you’ll see facebook rewrite that policy to make it ok for government to do this.

    2. Or else, wait for it…

      FYTW!

    3. Isn’t it against most usage policies to sign into an account that you don’t own?

      Moreover, many/most of these accounts require someone of legal age to consent to the licensing terms.

      Good luck getting consent from my children to access my account IPS!

      1. Good luck getting consent from my children to access my account IPS!

        I take that back, good luck getting access to an account owned by someone with the same name as my son who’s 18th birthday just happens to coincide with the account’s activation date.

        An account that *ahem* nobody has the password to.

        1. That’s a good point. You have to be 13 anyway to use pretty much any social media site, according to the terms.

  2. Surely The State can prevent bullying by providing a constant menacing presence in the lives of children, threatening them with punishment for any perceived disobedience.

    1. They’ve been doing this, which is why bullying is virtually nonexistent.

      Please do try to keep up!

    2. I wonder what lesson children will learn from this.

  3. I can’t wait for the test case on this.

    1. I can’t wait for a case where IPS has to use this law to get access to an account that they opened/issued/”control”.

      1. The next thing will be the school in conjunction with the police, creating a fake student account, bullying students with it, then arresting the parents when the bullied student finally fights back.

  4. Sure, just what you want, the school busybody seeing the kid’s post about their parents’ juicy divorce or Uncle Joe’s cash skimming at his local business, or Cousin Sarah’s hooking up with all comers down at the cop bar.

  5. School: “What is your password?”

    Student: “Ask my Dad.”

    Dad: “I don’t remember off-hand, it’s stored in an encrypted file on one of computers.”

    School: “Please look that up for us.”

    Dad: “I’ll pencil that task in. Next November 5th sound OK.”

    1. Dad: “I’ll pencil that task in. Next November 5th sound OK.” Hard drive crash, no backups, sorry.

      FIFY

      1. I stored it in an email in a local PST file on my hard drive.

      2. Is there any problem a hard drive crash can’t solve ?

        1. My hard drive crashed in a tragic canoe accident.

  6. Is it a law or a policy?

    Because if it’s a policy, fuck them, they can pry it from my cold, dead hands.

    But if it’s a law, then fuck them, they can pry it from my cold, dead hands.

  7. I hope the kids have the sense to just say “no”.

    1. Does killing someone with a shotgun count as cyber-bullying?

      I think my son would have some words for them if they tried to convince him he should stop. I’m pretty sure he only respects my wife and my by proxy in the ‘honor thy father and mother’ (rather than the ethical/logical/legal) sense in this regard.

    2. It’s a tricky problem. If my kid steals a bag of chips from another kid, or sucker punches another kid, I want the teaching staff to administer rough justice right then and there. (Of course I want double punishment when my kid is the victim.)

      You have to the teachers some leeway on this. But there’s an assumption that parents will not discipline there own children in these cyber-investigations which only fuels the fire the schools are the only adults.

  8. Yet another reason I’m glad I don’t have kids.
    I’d be in jail for sure.

  9. The article is a terrible piece of journalism. It doesn’t answer the question of what the school can do if the parents and kid tell the school to go fuck themselves. I would never under any circumstances allow my kid to give those assholes the password to anything. And if they punished him or her for it, I would spend the next few years filing law suits and making the lives of everyone involved utterly miserable.

    1. The school can sic CPS on them?

      1. Eventually CPS and schools will be merged into one bigger government agency.

      2. It seems ANYONE can sic CPS on families. No proof needed, just accusations.

  10. The other thing of course is that facebook and twitter accounts can be deleted. Just delete the account and tell them too bad.

  11. There is no way this passes constitutional scrutiny. It is just a matter of someone suing the bastards and striking the law down.

    1. Bullshit, John, and I’m sad to say this. The SC has given insane amounts of power to schools over their students. Remember the non-consent, non-parent-notification strip search of a 13 year old girl which was upheld?

      1. For stuff the kids are doing outside of school hours in places not run by the school?

        1. Bong hits for Jesus.

    2. Why don’t you get involved with your local school board- the members and their authority to make rules; they are apparently the ones making these ridiculous rules.

  12. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids about TOR, and maintaining your online anonymity, and not ever talking to a government authority figure without a lawyer present.

    I’m sure thats just what they were shooting for.

    1. I suspect TOR is a honeypot. I say this as someone who would register 1 out of 10 on the conspiracy theory index. In fact, the best way to flag yourself to the spooks is to run a TOR server (in addition to 1000s the spooks run themselves). They can run kiddy porn through their TOR servers with impunity but you can’t. Once you join a TOR as a server you can’t control the traffic content.

      1. I’m not that suspicious of it. And I’m at least a 6 on that 1 to 10 scale. But I wouldn’t be 100% shocked if you are right either.

        In this case, though, TOR only needs to be good enough to fool state level officials in Illinois. I don’t think the NSA or whoever is running TOR (if it is indeed a honeypot) would let the cat out of the bag just to make sure teens can’t hide from their teachers on facebook.

    2. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids about TOR, and maintaining your online anonymity, and not ever talking to a government authority figure without a lawyer present.

      If the kid is a registered student of the school system, the last one is the only one that matters.

      TOR is only relevant in a purely anonymous situation. The school doesn’t need to phone up the ISP and hunt down IP addresses, they can just cross the list of ‘bulliers’ and post times with the list of suspects from the class/school and interrogate the top 5 matches.

      Not to say that TOR is worthless, but engineering shouldn’t be confused with magic.

  13. Serious question: just exactly when (I’d like an actual date, please) did it become standard operating procedure that a school should have jurisdiction over what a student does OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL!?!?

    1. 9/11 changed everything man.

      Seriously. Sometime around 2001 seems like a good guess.

    2. It’s been a smoldering thing since the 80s.

      Used to be that schools claimed they could only get involved if it started at school.

      BUT, schools in some states, CA for example, have significant authority over a person under 18’s ability to get/hold a job as their permission is required for mandatory work permits. Schools can limit hours beyond federal law, revoke it if grades or attendance goes down, etc.

      I think the big power grab happened after Columbine with school officials engaging in all kinds of logical and linguistic torture to find a nexus between the school environment and the behavior in question.
      Just take what happens with the interstate commerce clause and apply it to school.

      Some schools were suspending students caught drinking at parties. They had the police give them the names of anyone arrest, cited, etc. This was a while back. They tried, but failed, to get info on students arrested for curfew violations.

      They made some claim that students who drink are more likely to cause disruptions in school, so it was justified to suspend students for drinking at a weekend party. Bear in mind, this was not they typical issue where they kick kids off extra circular teams.

      1. BUT, schools in some states, CA for example, have significant authority over a person under 18’s ability to get/hold a job as their permission is required for mandatory work permits. Schools can limit hours beyond federal law, revoke it if grades or attendance goes down, etc.

        AAAHHHH! Dear God, would I love to think the reason neighborhood kids (including my own) don’t cut grass and trim hedges here in this beautiful Los Angeles suburb where I live is that it is illegal for them to do so.

        Chinese wife: Don’t pick that up, the gardeners will. We pay them to do that.

        Beta Widget: I’ll pick that up when I damn well please. When are they coming?

        Chinese wife: Next Tuesday.

        Beta Widget: That’s six days from now. Get the boy out here to pick it up, if you want don’t me to.

        Chinese wife: He’s doing his homework.

        Beta Widget: What homework? He told me he did it all already.

        Chinese wife: We’re making a winter collage out of kitchen spices.

        Beta Widget: OK, honey. We can’t have him cut his foot off on in a garden tool accident.

    3. Get involved with your local school board- the members and their authority to make rules; they are apparently the ones making these ridiculous rules.

  14. Get used to it kids.

  15. I hate having to say it on every thread about schools, but this is example #81735784298528475043265832175483265742508 of how the state is the biggest bully of them all.

  16. Ok. Here’s my password. It’s “get_a_fucking_warrant_dipshit!”.

    That didn’t work? TRY AGAIN!

  17. This is plain stupid, how any parent would agree to this would be shocking to me. If the school wants access to a child’s social media account then it shoudl be a social media account set up through the school. They have no business having “personal” passwords. Thank god I don’t have to raise my child in Illinois

  18. It has an added troubling issue – though Reason probably won’t care.

    With gay marriage this means that the government can harass any Christian family if they believe the family discusses their moral opposition on their social networks.

  19. In my opinion, children under the age of 13 ought not to have social media accounts. They are unhealthy both mentally and physically to growing children.

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