HB 142 is a reasonable and appropriate bill to ensure the same privacy protections for students that adults demand.
All individuals, regardless of age, have the same protections and rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights in the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments. This bill is also consistent with Part 1 Article 15 (Rights of the Accused) and Article 19 (Searches and Seizures Regulated) in the NH Constitution.
Concerns were raised with a similar bills from 2014 which applied to elementary and high-school students. Some argued that the bill inhibited a school’s ability to investigate bullying incidents. This is an incorrect assumption because schools retain the ability to search through public records, and anything sent through school-issued computers and accounts. These concerns are specifically addressed in Part II of HB 142. Additionally any criminal investigation would involve the police who would obtain a warrant to search all social media records.
HB 142 addresses real issues where schools and social media intersect. Just a few weeks ago Bedford High School students were suspended for comments they posted on their personal social media accounts outside of school. First Amendment advocates including the American Civil Liberties Union’s New Hampshire office have indicated that this could expose Bedford to a lawsuit.
In March 2014 a Minnesota student won a $70,000 lawsuit stemming from an incident when school officials demanded her Facebook password. The American Civil Liberties Union defended her, arguing the school violated her right to free speech and privacy.
Clearly a law regarding social media is needed. HB 142 provides protections for students’ rights and can guide school districts away from potential lawsuits.
The sponsors have a proposed amendment that would exempt private schools from this bill. This is appropriate because the state should not impose policy upon any private organization. Enrollment at a private school is optional, and therefore the family can make an informed decision if they agree with the institution’s policies as part of that choice.
HB 142 is nearly identical to three bills considered by the legislature last year, HB 1200, HB 1212 and SB 355. Two of these bills were given unanimous Ought to Pass recommendations from the House Education Committee. Please urge the committee to do the same this year and issue an OTP on HB 142. Our students must have the same protections that we would demand for ourselves. The House Education Committee can be contacted at HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us
UPDATE: As of 2/11/15 evening,
The sponsors of HB 142 are now not inclined to amend the bill to exclude private schools from this requirement. They should because the state should not impose policy upon any private organization. Enrollment at a private school is optional, and therefore the family can make an informed decision if they agree with the institution’s policies as part of that choice. Please let the House Education Committee and sponsors know.
Rep. Katherine Rogers Katherine.Rogers@leg.state.nh.us (603)496-8521
Rep. Robert Cushing firstname.lastname@example.org (603)926-2737
Rep. Ralph Boehm email@example.com (603)860-6309