- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The state Senate rejected a bill that would have prohibited teachers and school officials from prying into students’ private personal social media accounts after opponents voiced concern it would jeopardize school safety.

Senate File 14 failed on a 17-13 vote Friday.

Under the proposed bill, school district employees could not require or ask a student to provide his or her login information for access to private emails, text messages or other social media belonging to the student. School officials would have to ask parents for access to a student’s private social media account or cellphone.

The bill would not have inhibited law enforcement investigations related to information on students’ online accounts.

Several senators, including some who have been school administrators, argued the proposal would make it harder for school officials to keep schools and students safe.

Sen. Jeff Wasserburger, R-Gillette, related his experience as a principal where he had to demand a student’s cellphone and password after hearing the student had nude pictures of other students on the phone.

Wasserburger explained situations that require a school administrator to act in place of the parent.

“If a gunman walks into my school and I live through that I didn’t act like a parent,” he said. “I better put myself between that gun and those students because that’s what a parent would do.”

Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, spoke in favor of the bill, saying the legislation was needed to protect students from government intrusion into the private affairs of students and others.

Rothfuss said he couldn’t deny the idea that “if we can just get a little bit more big brother then we can prevent something from happening.”

“But that’s not our only value,” he said. “We’re not only about trying to stop bad things from happening. We are also a state and a society that feels very strongly about the privacy rights of individuals.”

But Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, said the issue of school safety was a determining factor for him to oppose the bill.

“Ultimately, in this world of electronics where the youth are picking up these iPads and these phones and using them, don’t we have an overriding obligation to keep our schools safe and have access to that information,” Dockstader said.

The bill also addressed protecting data that has identifying information about individual students.

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