Fortner Calls for Stronger Social Media Safeguards

Springfield, IL…Today, State Representative Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) passed legislation in the House to strengthen individual rights to their social media privacy’s. House Bill 3527 was filed as a result of the newly effective laws that require students to release their private social media passwords to the schools upon request so long as the school notified the parents about the new policy and published it in the schools handbook.

In 2014, a bill passed requiring school districts to create an official policy on how to address cyberbullying. That bill, House Bill 4207, became effective Jan. 1, 2015. House Bill 3572 is a measure that clarifies and defines the term “reasonable cause” relating to social media, which has been used as a blanketed policy to demand students hand over their personal social media passwords. As introduced HB 3572 provides clarity of “reasonable clause” and actual scenarios that the schools would have to comply to avoid a violating a student’s individual privacy. 

“Without having a true definition of “reasonable cause” and what falls within those parameters, it became apparently clear to us that there were no regulations stopping schools for asking for this information,” said Fortner.

House Bill 3572 provides that a school does not have reasonable cause to request a student’s social networking password unless a victim or concerned party, such as a parent or guardian, has filed a complaint with the school or a school personnel have witnessed cyber-bullying taking place.

“In 2014 a school decided the way to comply with the cyberbullying law would be to send notification to parents indicating school personnel could demand Facebook passwords from students if a case of cyberbullying existed. The current law is not being interpreted correctly, this bill will clarify that only in the case of “reasonable cause” can the school make such a request,” said Fortner. “There should be a real event going on before demanding private passwords, otherwise it’s just fishing without cause.”

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