CALUMET CITY | Officials with the Thornton Fractional high schools here and in Lansing approved a new policy on Tuesday giving officials the authority to search the private portions of their students’ social media accounts.
They also are reviewing another policy that will have school officials paying attention to the dating behavior of students.
The school board for Thornton Fractional Township High School District 215 gave a 6-0 vote, with school board member LeeAnn Revis absent, to the measure that relates to social media accounts.
Illinois government approved a new law taking effect this year that allows school officials to have access to passwords giving them access to private portions of the accounts students may have at pages such as Facebook or Twitter.
The school board had to create a plan by which those passwords will be obtained.
Under the district’s rules, a school official wishing to gain a student’s password would need the approval of the principal at the respective high school, who would then need to get approval from Superintendent Creg Williams.
Williams said he only intends to give such approval if he believes there is information on a student’s social media pages that would enable the school to address problems such as bullying or other violent acts.
“We don’t intend to abuse this, or use it in an untoward manner,” Williams said.
While school board President Richard Dust said the proposal was revised in recent weeks to include the requirement that only the principal and superintendent could require a student to give up their passwords.
“There was concern from some that we’d be able to ask for passwords whenever we wanted,” Dust said. “We do want to protect the peoples’ rights” to privacy.
The school board also reviewed, but did not act, upon a new policy related to teen dating violence. It calls for Williams to create a school program to respond to incidents of dating violence that take place on school property.
Those include physical, mental or emotional acts “to control an individual in the dating relationship,” the proposed policy reads. The school board, which did not publicly discuss the change on Tuesday, is likely to give its final approval on the matter when it meets again March 25.
In other business, the school board voted to accept two grants from the Illinois State Board of Education. The district will receive $250,000 from the energy efficient grant program, and another $50,000 from the school maintenance project.
School district Finance Director Charles DiMartino also informed school board members that a tax increment finance district for the West Lansing Industrial Area is scheduled to expire at year’s end.
That TIF district capped the equalized assessed valuation of property in the area for the past 25 years, and DiMartino said the district could start to see more tax revenues in future years unless Lansing village officials decide to try to extend the TIF district’s life.