Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Give Me Your Password: Are Social Media Intrusions by Schools Reasonable or Unconstitutional?

A new student comment by Talon Hurst, Give Me Your Password: The Intrusive Social Media Policies in Our Schools, 22 CommLaw Conspectus 196 (2014), discusses social media policies "that allow school officials to request or demand students to consent to their social media accounts being accessed or monitored[.]"  The author argues that these policies violate students' First and Fourth Amendment rights, and calls for judicial review of their constitutionality.  Hurst emphasizes that these kinds of social media policies are not only a concern in primary and secondary schools, but also growing in prevalence at a number of colleges and universities, especially in regards to student athletes.  Who knew colleges and universities were so interested in their students?

Hurst points to school officials at the University of North Carolina, who "force their student-athletes to consent to the monitoring of their social network accounts by signing a social media policy[,]" which states that "'[e]ach team must identify at least one coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and regularly monitoring the content of team members' social networking sites and posting.'"

Proponents of such policies at the elementary and secondary level "argue that forcing students to provide them with their social network account information furthers a legitimate interest in maintaining discipline in the classroom." Citing additional concerns like bullying and substance abuse issues, a number of administrators believe that schools should be able to monitor students at all times, not just when they are within the physical confines of the school building.  Those like Hurst who oppose these programs argue that they are a violation of students' rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Moreover, while students may "voluntarily" surrender their information, they only do so "under duress from fear of disciplinary actions."

The article is now up on westlaw.


Bullying and Harassment, First Amendment | Permalink


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