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La. Gov. Signs Bill Protecting Student-Athletes' Social-Media Privacy

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently signed a law that prohibits K-12 schools from requiring student-athletes to fork over access to their social-media accounts.

The so-called "Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act," which passed through the state House and Senate unanimously, applies to educational institutions ranging from nursery schools and kindergartens to colleges and universities. It prohibits all such schools from requesting or requiring students or prospective students to disclose a username or password to a social-media account. Schools also may not punish students who refuse to voluntarily disclose such information.

However, schools may require students to hand over login information for any "electronic communications device" that they "paid for or supplied in whole or in part," unless it's been provided "with the intent to permanently transfer ownership" to the student or prospective student. They also may request such information for "an account or service provided by the educational institution" (such as a college e-mail address).

The act does not require schools to search or monitor the activity of students' online personas, and they will not be liable for failing to request information to such online personas. It also applies to employers in the state, with slightly different rules.

Jindal's office announced the signing of the bill on May 26.

Last June, Oregon enacted a similar law, although it was restricted to just postsecondary institutions. It also allowed colleges and universities to conduct investigations "for the purpose of ensuring compliance with applicable law, regulatory requirements, or prohibitions against student misconduct" if student-athletes left their social-media account(s) open to the public (i.e., not "locked").

As I warned when that law passed: Just because schools can't force student-athletes to give up access to their private social-media accounts doesn't mean it's advisable to post explicit or derogatory content online. After all, it only takes one screen grab for a piece of private online content to become public.

We've seen enough stories of student-athletes gone rogue on social media—from the high school basketball player who had an award stripped for telling an opponent to "#f---yourself" to the high school football star who was expelled for vulgar content on his Twitter account—to know that it's best to play things close to the vest online. If you can't help but type out a page of curses, open a Word doc, go wild, and delete it when you're done. Problem solved.

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