Student Digital Information Privacy Proposal Moves Forward

Sep 24, 2015

Credit Maria Elena via Flickr Creative Commons

A proposed bill from the Wyoming Legislature’s Task Force on Digital Information Privacy would bar school district employees from requiring students to provide them access to social media accounts, smart phones or other personal digital information.

Thursday, the 8-member group put the finishing touches on the policy, which will be sent on to the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee.

Senator Chris Rothfuss says some school districts consider demanding a student’s Facebook login information an acceptable way to investigate bullying or other discipline issues.

“We had one district that came down and gave testimony that basically was, ‘Oh, we don’t feel we can do that. That is something we would never do,” says Rothfuss. “That was immediately followed by the next district which said, ‘Oh yeah, we’d do that. That’s something we would do if we felt like we needed information from them.’ So, we see that there are very different interpretations of what schools would be allowed to do, and we wanted to provide some clarity.”

Rothfuss says if the draft becomes law, schools would be prohibited from even requesting that kind of access from students.  

“Under a lot of circumstances, a request is the same thing as a command—certainly when you have request coming from a teacher—they’re the same thing,” say Rothfuss. “We’re trying to be sensitive to that and realize there are privacy expectations for those social media accounts and other digital accounts that need to be respected.”

That privacy expectation would not apply to digital accounts or devices provided by the school district.

If school employees violate the student privacy law, they’d face misdemeanor charges and a $1,000 fine.

The task force held its final meeting in Laramie this week and sent several draft bills on to legislative committees for further consideration.