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Illinois Students Suspected of Cyberbullying Must Provide Social Media Passwords 323

derekmead writes: School districts in Illinois are telling parents that a new law may require school officials to demand the social media passwords of students if they are suspected in cyberbullying cases or are otherwise suspected of breaking school rules. The law (PDF), which went into effect on January 1, defines cyberbullying and makes harassment on Facebook, Twitter, or via other digital means a violation of the state's school code, even if the bullying happens outside of school hours. A letter sent out to parents in the Triad Community Unit School District #2, a district located just over the Missouri-Illinois line near St. Louis, that was obtained by Motherboard says that school officials can demand students give them their passwords.
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Illinois Students Suspected of Cyberbullying Must Provide Social Media Passwords

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  • Bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:38PM (#48867963)

    The law is blatantly unconstitutional.

    • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:42PM (#48868019)
      Where have you been? That's never stopped them before.
      • When employers were reported to be increasingly asking job candidates for their passwords, Facebook responded that this was a violation of their terms of service. I wonder if the same applies here?

        Of course, there is also always the question of what if you refuse or claim to have "forgotten" it? ;-)
        What are the recourses? Lock you up in solitary until you comply?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Account? What Facebook account?
          I don't have one.

          Oh that account - well someone's just using my name.

        • by DM9290 ( 797337 )

          Employers have no power to nullify Facebook's terms of service - The law does.

          • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

            by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudsononl ... Nom minus author> on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @05:22PM (#48869285) Journal
            All fine and good, but if you read the actual text of the law, it doesn't empower schools to require students to hand over passwords to someone working at school. This is just another overreach by petty adults to justify their instinct to act like bullies instead of using their heads.
            • And inducement to break a contract is a crime in most jurisdictions, doubly so with color of law. The lawsuits should be fun.

              • Schools have done such a marvelous job with zero tolerance gun laws that we have to have examples of how the law has punished schools that break the law right? I mean, you said the system is working so show me one example of this happening. I wonder, exactly how much money in pain and suffering did that 8 year old kid get after the school suspended him and cops interrogated him without his parents for biting a pop-tart into the shape of a gun? Oh yeah, nothing. The family spent a ton of money to fight t

    • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

      by skgrey ( 1412883 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:44PM (#48868049)
      And unbelievably ignorant in terms of technology and the sanctity of passwords and system access. These are the people teaching our children and making policy? That's very frightening.

      Schools should already be implementing some sort of technology instruction in terms of environment, protection, and safety starting in 4th grade or so. And for those that think this is too young, many kids have smart phones and tablets before they can read to watch videos and play apps, and are already growing up with these devices and the Internet being part of their lives. Now imagine your ten or eleven year old has this device and is on every social media, search engine, porn site, or board. It's not even the content we have to worry about, it's the other people on them. Schools are the perfect place for this, but the people there have no clue. Sure, give them your password. Ugh.
      • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

        by aitikin ( 909209 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @04:07PM (#48868347)

        These are the people making policy that the people teaching our children are expected to enforce?

        FTFY. Very few teachers are ever involved or considered in making policy. Being originally from that state, there were always things that every single teacher I met (and I met a number, my mother was a teacher, my brother is a teacher (as was his ex-wife), and, as such, many of their friends were too) absolutely hated.

        In some school districts, it's a fineable (and, actually, terminate-able) offense for the teacher to grade papers in red ink (because the color red means it was bad)... Other districts are known to not allow teachers to give out homework until High School. It's ridiculous for sure, but these rules certainly were not put in place by the teachers and to lump them in with the policy makers is ridiculous.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And unbelievably ignorant in terms of technology and the sanctity of passwords and system access. These are the people teaching our children and making policy? That's very frightening.

        Why are you pissed at the "people teaching?" Did you read the words "new law" in the post up there? You think school admins and teachers want to deal with this BS? You're naïve. This is another example of a state legislature crafting a misguided law because some concerned parents tweaked a state rep's ear. The problem is in the statehouse, not in the principal's office.

        • The root cause is the parents - both because they fail to teach their kids not to bully and how to deal with it when you are bullied, but also for demanding their legislators pass this law.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I thought public schools thought the three "C"s, conform, consume, and cower.

        It is appropriate for a school to demand passwords. Learn to obey early and without question, as one can never be blamed for just following orders.

      • They do have technology instruction in schools now. They have a handy package given to them by the RIAA and the MPAA describing how copyright infringement is a criminal offense, and that children can be sent to prison for the rest of their lives for their first offense. What more is there to teach?

    • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

      by terraformer ( 617565 ) <tpb@pervici.com> on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:49PM (#48868115) Journal

      The law is blatantly unconstitutional.

      Actually, the law doesn't demand the password. The school districts are making it up because they don't know about or have police powers and are otherwise clueless. The real issue here is the law puts activity occurring outside of schools into the hands of school administrators.

      PS: The constitutionality of demanding a password has never been finally tested, but this doesn't get us there either.

      • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

        by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @04:32PM (#48868663)

        The law is blatantly unconstitutional.

        Actually, the law doesn't demand the password. The school districts are making it up because they don't know about or have police powers and are otherwise clueless. The real issue here is the law puts activity occurring outside of schools into the hands of school administrators.

        PS: The constitutionality of demanding a password has never been finally tested, but this doesn't get us there either.

        PSS: I doubt it really matters if the ground you're standing on has been "finally tested" when at that point you'll be an ex-student standing in the street, expelled.

        Seems you forgot who holds the true power over the average 16-year old civics fan who wants to make a point. Scholarships aren't going to get any less competitive. Have fun getting one with that kind of black mark on your record.

        Hell, in this day and age you'll be lucky to get away with not being labeled a terrorist for demanding your Rights like that. Gonna be hard to do that student exchange program next year while your ass is on the no-fly list. And for such a profoundly just reason too.

        • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @05:39PM (#48869511) Homepage

          > PSS: I doubt it really matters if the ground you're standing on has been "finally tested" when at that point you'll be an ex-student standing in the street, expelled.

          It depends. It depends on what social class you belong to and how much access you have to legal representation.

          • Also, how nice you are about it. Not that social class, access to representation or manners should matter. But they do.

            Politely refusing an order can often avoid being expelled/a police beatdown.

            Which is why I never understood so many people's reactions to the police. They are humans. They are wrong. And if you're an ass they're just going to double down.

        • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

          by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @05:41PM (#48869541)
          I'm not familiar with the track record of students kicked out of high schools for idiotic reasons such as this, but I've heard of some students who sued their school districts, seems like the case I'm remembering they got into decent schools.

          "I stood up to my school district for invading my privacy, they expelled me, I got the ACLU to sue them and got reinstated/a hefty settlement that I'm using for college tuition" seems like a college essay that would really stand out from "I volunteered once at a soup kitchen."

          Keep in mind that rules like these are rules made by cowards: they're not doing this because they believe the best way of educating their students is to invade their privacy. This is purely the work of administrators who are afraid of lawyers hiding behind every corner. That works both ways: they'll pick on the wrong student before too long, that student will call their bluff, the school will make even dumber threats, the student will organize a legal response, and the school will back down in a huff saying it's unfortunate that they couldn't protect students or something like that.
        • You can always get your degree online at snhu.edu.
      • I am not a number

        So I guess you are sqrt(-1) [gnu.org]???

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        It looks more like a power grab. The law grants them no new powers (certainly not the power to demand user and pass for a non-school system from a student). They can already investigate by having the target show them the offending messages (also without turning over user/pass). If the posts are ppublic, they don't even need to be shown, they can go look for themselves.

        The posts either exist or not and they are either bullying or not. Passwords have nothing to do with it.

    • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

      by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:53PM (#48868171)

      The law is blatantly unconstitutional.

      I know it may have been a while since you've set foot on a school campus while under the age of 18, but you won't find much evidence of Constitutional Rights anywhere outside of the book they're ironically using to teach students about the Rights they refuse to acknowledge for students.

      Hell at this point I'd fail the civics mid-term exam test on purpose. And then sue the school board for insisting I learn "facts" that clearly no longer exist in today's society.

      • by rjhubs ( 929158 )
        Please, this is not a recent phenomenon, schools have never been a place full of civil liberties. Corporal punishment in public schools existed for quite some time. Schools have the ability to hold kids against their will (detentions), some places you can get arrested for truancy, there has never been due process in doling out these punishments either.
        I am sure you could find a large amount of people who believe schools these days don't have enough power to infringe on student's rights and that's why "thi
    • by MrLint ( 519792 )

      Lets ignore that, its a TOS violation, which is if you believe the TOS laywers a contract violation, and teh school would also be in violation of illegal computer system trespass. But ya know anything extra legal means to avoid having to make a legal justification.

      Its like institutional internet vigilantism.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The word "password" is not in the text anywhere.

      I saw nothing in it that gives the school district any authority whatsoever to do such a thing. It makes the bullying illegal, and gives the school the ability to support the victim. But it does not even mention giving school administrators access to private social media accounts of the accused.

      It's just a bit long and I did skim in places, please feel free to correct me if you see it in there. But I don't see any provision that is even suggestive of what i

      • The word "password" is not in the text anywhere.

        I saw nothing in it that gives the school district any authority whatsoever to do such a thing. It makes the bullying illegal, and gives the school the ability to support the victim. But it does not even mention giving school administrators access to private social media accounts of the accused.

        It's just a bit long and I did skim in places, please feel free to correct me if you see it in there. But I don't see any provision that is even suggestive of what is being claimed in the aritcle.

        I saw this when it was in the firehose yesterday, and I didn't just skim over the text of the actual law. Your analysis is correct. We already have ways to deal with this - call the cops. Cases like http://www.slate.com/articles/... [slate.com]>Rehtaeh Parsons, where the cops initially did nothing, and the resulting backlash anonymous threatening [www.cbc.ca], then revealing [dailydot.com] the identities of the perps, forced the prosecutors to charge and convict some of them.

        There ws actually no need for a "cyber-bullying" law - harassment

    • "Keep in mind that legislatures pass unconstitutional laws all the time"

      The mind boggling this is people seem to think that's OK. I think there should be real repercussions for lawmakers who do this crap.

      Like a sound beating.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        The law passed did not grant schools any new powers at all and nothing in it would constructively require them to assume that power.

        It's just a privacy grab by the school systems and this was a convenient but lame excuse.

    • not only would I take them to court and file a civil rights compalint with the Department of Justice, I'd blog every step of the fight, with the phone numbers and home addresses of those pinhead dictator school board members.

      and if my kid HAD cyberbullied, they would be so grounded. I'd take the smartphone away and they'd have a Jitterbug like Granny.

    • Children do not have rights. Especially at school. Sad but true.
  • My password (Score:5, Funny)

    by damicatz ( 711271 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:39PM (#48867987)

    My password is alt-f4. Make sure you press alt and then f4, if you press f4 and then alt, it will make your computer explode.

    • by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @09:26PM (#48871447) Journal

      Actually, you were just making a "level one" joke, but I'll take to level 2!

      Actually make your password Alt&F4!!

      Look at it - eight characters, two caps, a number, and three special characters!

      And given the technological silliness of the people making this power grab, you get an epic Who's On First routine for the 21st century!

      "What's your password?"
      "Alt and F4 Bang Bang"
      "BangBang"?
      "Yeah, that Cher song. Wanna play it on Youtube?"
      "No. I want your password."
      "I told you. Alt&f4 Bang Bang"
      (Principal does Alt-f4 - Window closes.)
      "Hey! You closed my program!"
      "I didn't do anything. I'm on the phone, you're at the computer."

      (Repeat for fifteen minutes and maybe the school admin will give up! If they survived that one, change it!)

      Runner up is this site!
      "Okay, I changed it for you. www./..org

  • by Gizan ( 3984275 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:39PM (#48867991)
    Nope you can't have it. 5th amendment.
    • Bullshit.

      The 4th Amendment says they can't just seize stuff without due process, but they've been doing that for many, many years.

      What makes you think the 5th Amendment will be enforced when the 4th hasn't been for decades?

      • by Monkey ( 16966 )

        The 5th Amendment protects against self-incrimination, which means providing evidence in a proceeding against oneself. This is effectively what you would be doing by handing over your password.

        • So? The 4A says the police can't just steal your stuff without due process (like losing a court case and them being awarded it in a judgment). But they've been stealing stuff for decades whenever it supposedly is involved in drugs, without any kind of court cases. Basically, the Bill of Rights is null and void at this point.

      • Bullshit.

        The 4th Amendment says they can't just seize stuff without due process, but they've been doing that for many, many years.

        What makes you think the 5th Amendment will be enforced when the 4th hasn't been for decades?

        Student: Gee, I don't know what made me think I had Rights...maybe it has something to do with all that shit you're demanding we learn in civics and history class.

        I could be spitballing here though...

      • Because those at the top know the 5th is their friend, but don't care much about the 4th since their crimes tend not to be about hiding objects - money is easy to move overseas after all.

        The 5th matters for house and senate committees which matter to those at the top.

    • by redshirt ( 95023 )
      Your 5th amendment plea is only applicable in a court of law, not in a school.
  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:42PM (#48868023)

    Is someone is a victim of cyber-bullying, can't you check the account of the victim too?

    But then what about aliases and alternative accounts?

    Social media: more trouble than it's worth.

    • by MrLint ( 519792 )

      Why bother checking any facts. Accusation is enough to go on. And if you can't get authorities to go after someone, just post it up, someone is always lookign for fresh meat.

  • by clonehappy ( 655530 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:43PM (#48868027)

    "Don't know it, sorry."

    or

    "Fuck You."

    Unfortunately, the authority worship preached to our children in the public schools ensures neither of the correct answers will probably be given. The children of people smart enough to have taught their children this (doctors, lawyers, professors, etc.) don't have their children in the public institutionalization facilities, anyway.

    • The correct answer is "No, you have no authority to demand I give that to you." The first implies I'm only refusing because I don't know. Abuse of authority should be called out for what it is.

    • "Don't know it, sorry."

      or

      "Fuck You."

      Chose the latter, and the response you'll likely receive is:

      "Fine. Your expulsion is effective immediately."

      Seems you're quick to overlook who holds the true power in this scenario.

      Unfortunately, the authority worship preached to our children in the public schools ensures neither of the correct answers will probably be given. The children of people smart enough to have taught their children this (doctors, lawyers, professors, etc.) don't have their children in the public institutionalization facilities, anyway.

      Public or private, good luck fighting it. Take an attitude towards it, and the outcome will likely be the same. This is the overall problem with corporations or organizations who have enough business demand to take their own "Fuck You" stance against the squeaky wheel.

      • Chose the latter, and the response you'll likely receive is:

        "Fine. Your expulsion is effective immediately."

        To which the response should be, "Fine. You can expect to hear from my lawyer next week."

        Once the school district is facing a huge lawsuit the problem will go away rather quickly and the idiots behind such policy will quickly find themselves looking for new employment. There are plenty of news reporters that would love to run wild with such a story, and the various social networks or social media sites will certainly go nuts over it.

    • You forgot "Sure, here's the password to my honeypot account I don't use."
    • More like "I don't have a Facebook account." Can't really prove that any Facebook account that purports to be them is really them anyway without a court order delivered to Facebook (and the email provider of the registration email address) and even then it might still be fuzzy.

  • This is nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:44PM (#48868043)

    This isn't going to do anything to help cyberbullying - which mostly goes unchecked because institutions and parents turn a blind eye to it. Instead, it's a base power grab to allow educators to harass students for behavior they disagree with, and to invade student's private lives. If state government doesn't have the right to pry into the personal accounts of adults, it certainly doesn't have the right to pry into personal accounts of children - a privilege which does remain the responsibility of the parent at hand.

    Maybe the best way to counteract bullying isn't with macho statist nonsense, but by examining a system which encourages people to use cruelty to make themselves feel better? I'll be amazed either way if this helps even one case of actual cyberbullying, instead of us just hearing in a year or two about how some child predator school admin demanded access to a tween girl's accounts.

  • Leigh Lewis, superintendent of the Triad district, told me that if a student refuses to cooperate, the district could presumably press criminal charges.

    The school district aren't saying that the law gives them the power to compel students to give them their passwords. It also doesn't suggest that refusing to give the password is breaking the law. The school can ask, just as I could walk up to someone in the street and say they need to give me £5 or I will report them to the police for "being a moron",

    • Leigh Lewis, superintendent of the Triad district, told me that if a student refuses to cooperate, the district could presumably press criminal charges.

      I'm hard pressed to see how the *school district* could press charges as they are not a party to, or harmed by, the alleged accusations.

  • by Beerdood ( 1451859 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:50PM (#48868119)
    If the school suspects some form of bullying, then shouldn't the victim be able to log on themselves and simply demonstrate the instances of cyber-bullying? No one needs to disclose passwords to anyone to prove cyber-bullying.

    I'm pretty sure this violates the TOS on facebook or any other social media, since they specifically say not to disclose your password to anyone. They have no legal ground to stand on.
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:54PM (#48868189) Homepage
    Schools are not law enforcement agencies. Worse, they have repeatedly proven they are not trustworthy - even worse than cops. They are VERY easy for rather small minded, viscous people to take over, as repeatedly shown in Texas and other states. School boards are elected, not appointed, in small elections where most people simply don't care. This lets highly motivated fanatics take them over.

    A prime example is how many school boards illegally try to harass black students in the 60s and homosexual students today.

    Schools jobs are education, not law enforcement.

    They can in no way be trusted with passwords.

    The real problem is that people expect the schools to deal with the bullying. NO. Bullying is a criminal matter and the cops need to get involved. If the child in question is a severe bully, arrest and charge him.

    If not, have social workers take over - and let the social worker assigned to the case have access to the password, not some school board.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mgandalf ( 38247 )

      I suspect it's also unconstitutional. Schools have too much power these days. As a parent, I have felt the force of that power. They can very much at times be vindictive.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      rather small minded, viscous people

      Why do you say they're thick and sticky? That's just a vicious rumor.

  • Oblig. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by clonehappy ( 655530 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @03:59PM (#48868245)

    Step 1. Create social media account under my enemy's name and bully people.
    Step 2. Enemy takes the blame since they can't give up passwords to prove otherwise.
    Step 3. Profit!

    Actually figured out step 2 this time. That's real progress!

  • "Round up the usual suspects!" So the school will require everyone's passwords . . . in a sealed envelope, of course, "just for emergencies". And then they'll get lost or misplaced or stolen. Or even better, some prankster will set up a fake account in someone else's name. Hey, what are people supposed to do if they don't have accounts? Of course the school won't believe that.
  • This new law creates a minefield.

    .
    "...or are otherwise suspected of breaking school rules...." So, if a student doesn't have a halll pass, the school administrators can make the parents turn over the social media passwords?

  • ...I'd change my password to 'the-principle-fucked-me-in-the-ass-and-told-me-he-would-kill-my-parents-if-I-told-anyone-so-I-write-about-it-here' before engaging in any cyber bullying.

  • I actually live in the school district that has created the issue. You can find the original printed notice here:
    https://drive.google.com/file/... [google.com]

    From the language used, they seem to believe that their policy is enforceable by law. However, the actual text of the law says nothing about compelling access to a personal social network profile. This leads me to believe that a degree of incompetence has invaded the district's administration. Shocking, right?

    I don't expect it to happen, but non

  • ... personality is tracable to your real life personality.

    That should be a day in computer "science" class in... grade school.

    "Okay kids"... "Repeat after me, NEVER use your real name or post pictures of yourself on the internet".

    If you want to share photos with a friend, email them to him/her. If you want to have a place where you can store videos and photos, then do that on a private server or on some system you can wipe.

    Do not use facebook. I know, that's hard. But if you use facebook, the principle will

  • by WCMI92 ( 592436 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @04:18PM (#48868483) Homepage

    UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

    Any judge that upholds this law should be taken out back and shot.

  • The law itself doesn't say anything.

    Teachers may be *required* to "demand" a password (if that 's what the school's anti-bullying policy compells them to).

    But there's nothing here to say that students must *comply* with those demands.

    Now there's usually a separate set of laws which compel people to comply with certain demands made by certain officials. It's too hard to tell here whether password demands will fall into that bucket.

  • by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2015 @04:31PM (#48868633)

    It says nothing about giving passwords. It says schools have to create and follow a policy, and that they have to investigate claims of bullying. Nowhere in that law does it say that students have to actually cooperate with the investigation. Investigating could be as simple as questioning the involved students. Perhaps reviewing their public profile. Perhaps having the alleged victim show the evidence using the victim's login WITHOUT giving that to anyone.

    School districts who claim this law gives them the right to demand account credentials are...well, I'll be polite. They're wrong.

  • They should just suspend both parties, harasser and harasee. Afterall, that's how most schools handle physical (non-sexual) harassment right? And it works oh-so well!

  • I read the PDF and the law doesn't seem to say anything about suspected bullies being required to do certain things (other than abstain from bullying, of course).

    My best guess is that someone read the part about how the government requires the school to have a process for investigating what happened (d), and misread that as meaning that other parties (e.g. students) are required to have a process for assisting such investigations.

    If it weren't so stupid, it would be clever. Imagine if the First Amendment

  • The school is dumb. Bullies will simply have a "clean" facebook and twitter accounts to disclose to school officials, mothers and the pope, it will smell like roses. And they will have fake accounts to do the bullying. So whatever is the constitutionality of the procedure, it is not going to work

    But teenagers are susceptible, emotional and are vulnerable to cyber bullying. What possible solutions are there? When there is a complaint of cyberbullying, for America based social networks like Twitter and Face

  • I thought the point of schools was to provide children with an education. When did babysitting children's online behavior become part of their responsibilities?
  • Why do they need their passwords? Shouldn't they be able to see what they've posted be looking at the victims account?

  • If you are a law enforcement agency, you don't need the password and you make Facebook give you the data. If you are not, the bully can delete his data before he is caught, and you cannot recover them.
  • This could come back to bite teachers or administrators in the ass if they're sued for their actions. They'll undoubtedly get away with it with a lot of kids, but there are going to be a few that will tell them to piss off, and then things will get ugly and expensive, possibly for both school districts and the administrators personally if it's determined that A) they didn't actually have a legal right to the information and B) it was provided to them under duress (see "Color of Law" and "Color of Authority"

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