(KMOV.com) – A new law in Illinois meant to tackle cyber bullying is drawing controversy because it allows schools districts obtain a student’s password for social media accounts during an investigation.
The Columbia, Ill. School District said it believes the law is needed, but said it will not ask for students’ passwords.
“So many times social media is the beginning of something that transpires at schools,” said Dr. Gina Segobiano, Superintendent of the Columbia, Ill. School District.
Segobiano said the district has a responsibility to provide a safe learning environment and said many problems start away from school.
“So what happens on the weekends, at home, before school, if dramatically, substantially impacts a students and the environment, then it is our obligation to follow through,” Segobiano said.
Segobiano said the new law expands the district’s anti-bullying police, giving officials a little more power to investigate threats on social media. Some believe districts are given too much power that may impact a student’s privacy.
“Giving this power over and encouraging schools to do this sort of far reaching investigation into things that are happening in private homes, on private computers, is something that really goes just a bridge too far for us,” said Ed Yohnka with the ACLU of Illinois. “We think that is a gross misreading of the law. There is nothing in the law that requires a students to turn over a password.”
The district said it works with Columbia Police to drive home the point that cyberbullying is a crime.
“We truly believe that when you give students the knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong, they are going to make the right choice and stay away from the criminal side of cell phones and computers,” said Columbia Police Chief Joe Edwards.
Edwards said he has spoken with every middle school and high school student about cyberbullying over the past two years.