• Can schools force students to disclose their Facebook password?

    Date: 04.29.14 | by Judge Tom.

    When Riley Stratton was in the sixth grade in 2012, school officials and a police officer brought her to an office where she was questioned about her email and Facebook comments. They coerced the twelve-year-old into giving up her Facebook username and password in the absence of her parents. See here for an earlier post about Riley.

    Riley had written a critical post about a hall monitor and had an online chat with a boy of a “sexual nature.” Her posts were done at home, after school hours and on her own computer. Riley, with the help of the ACLU, sued the school district for violating her privacy rights for viewing her accounts without permission.

    Riley Stratton (from Sandra Stratton)

    Riley Stratton (from Sandra Stratton)

    In March, 2014, the case was settled for $70,000 to be split between Riley and her lawyers. The school district did not admit any liability but agreed to rewrite their social media policies regarding the monitoring of students’ online behavior. They would not ask students for their passwords unless they had “reasonable suspicion” that a law or school rule had been broken. Public schools need to heed the comment made by the Supreme Court in 2012 that school officials were not censors of the World Wide Web.*

    Riley commented that she’s glad the case is over and that the school has changed its rules. She left her middle school when this happened and has been home-schooled since. She uses an alias on Facebook.

    *Layshock v. Hermitage School District, 132 S.Ct. 1097 (2012).

    As of October, 2014, only twelve states had password-protection laws in place. Most, however, apply to college students and not grades 1-12. Also, some states (Illinois and Maryland) have laws protecting employees from being required to turn over their social media account information to employers.

     

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    4 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Can schools force students to disclose their Facebook password? | Law Offices of David R. Bach, P.C.
      Tue, 29 Apr 2014 at 02:58

      […] Can schools force students to disclose their Facebook password? […]

    • CAN SCHOOLS COMPEL STUDENTS TO GIVE UP THEIR FACEBOOK PASSWORDS? | reportergary.com
      Thu, 01 May 2014 at 05:16

      […] […]

    • John
      Wed, 14 May 2014 at 04:54

      My 16 year old son has court issues right now for run away and incorrigible. He was using some vulgar language to me so I slapped him in the face, he took a shovel, hit our armor guard and smashed my mailbox. I filled a police report and press charges for destroying my property. I’m only doing this because the boy is way out of control and during the court appearances th judge doesn’t ask me any questions regarding his behavior. I want him on probation but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen. Will they combine this with his other charges and will they put him on probation for this?
      Dear John: The judge will decide the consequences for your son. You should feel free to explain to the court (probation) officer who’s assigned to his case about his behavior at home. Even in court, ask the judge for permission to speak and then tell him or her the facts and your need for help with your son. Before making a decision about sentencing, the judge needs all the facts. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • John
      Thu, 15 May 2014 at 03:21

      They haven’t assigned him a probation officer. I asked the judge to speak and told her 1 incident and basically cut me off. She’s basing her decision on the child study (someone that doesn’t even know my son). I feel she should be talking to me I have to live with him daily. Do you think I’d be able to set an appointment with the prosecuting attorney and speak with her regarding his daily behavior?
      Dear John: You have nothing to lose by trying to discuss the situation with the prosecutor. Maybe you can reach an agreement about handling this case short of further court proceedings, such as diversion. It will depend on the policies of the prosecutor’s office. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

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