Delaware bans colleges from requiring students’ social media passwords


Should a university be able to edit a student’s Facebook profile or check his private tweets? Absolutely not, said the Delaware state legislature, as it recently passed the first state law to forbid schools from requiring students to divulge personal social media login information.
Signed into law by Gov. Jack Markell on July 20, HB309 bans both public and private higher-education institutions from committing a range of student privacy violations.
Delaware colleges and universities cannot require or request that students turn over login information, nor can they ask students to log on to their personal social networking sites in the presence of a school representative.
The law also bars schools from tracking students’ personal online activities or requesting that the student add a school representative on a social networking site. A school could not demand, for example, that a student approve a teacher as a Facebook friend.
Originally written to include primary and secondary schools as well, the final version of the law limits its scope only to post-secondary institutions.
Legislators reconsidered the K-12 portion of the bill after hearing concerns that schools working with younger children would deal more frequently with cyber bullying problems, said Damian DeStefano, legislative aide to the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Darryl Scott.
In the wake of several high-profile cyber bullying cases, schools have been under increasing pressure to monitor instances of students bullying each other via social media.
“We wouldn’t want to handcuff a school in its ability to investigate cases of bullying,” he said.
Another factor that complicates student privacy laws in the K-12 space: the rise of “bring your own device” (BYOD) programs designed to get technology in the hands of more students.
When students are bringing their personal devices into the classroom for instruction, and teachers need to monitor those devices, “to what degree does that make everything on the student’s device available for school review?” said Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, in a phone call with eCampus News.
“Should a student be able to password-protect access to their device? Should the school be able to demand the access password on those devices? Tricky issues,” Willard wrote in a subsequent eMail message.
The Delaware law was “definitely” necessary, because collecting students’ personal social media information is a “particularly invasive” violation of privacy, said Khaliah Barnes, open government counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
Barnes also noted a larger, hidden potential consequence: If students were to release private social networking information to schools, that information could spread quickly to the hands of many.
Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), information gathered by schools receiving federal funding becomes an educational record. That record, in turn, may be released without the student’s consent to a wide net of eligible entities.
EPIC recently sued the federal Education Department for issuing new changes to FERPA that allow student records to be disclosed to a “really expansive list” of entities not directly represented by the education secretary, attorney general, or controller general.
DeStefano agreed that establishing appropriate guidelines for K-12 education, distinct from those of higher education, would require more research. For this bill, he said, there simply wasn’t time to make the necessary changes, because it was “getting late in the [legislative] session.”
Rep. Scott did not introduce the bill as a result of any specific events; “there is no indication that any schools were doing this,” DeStefano said.
Rather, he said, the bill was intended as a preemptive form of legal protection. With the rise of personal social media, many institutions have become interested in looking at the online presences of their members.
DeStefano said the bill was inspired in part by similar moves to put legal limits on employers looking to screen applicants or check on workers via social networking sites.
Delaware legislators considered but did not pass a companion bill, HB 308, which addressed online privacy at the workplace.
Data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures show that in May, Maryland enacted legislation that prohibits employers from requesting or requiring an employee or applicant to disclose personal social media login information, and in June, Illinois followed suit.
In the past year, 14 states have considered similar legislation that would restrict employers from requesting social networking account information from applicants, students, or employees.
At the national level, U.S. Reps. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., in late April introduced the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA).           
Like the state laws, SNOPA would ban employers from requiring workers’ account information—but it also would apply to schools from kindergarten through college. Willard said SNOPA would be better because it covers a greater scope, but she called the Delaware law a “good start.”
Barnes noted that SNOPA has explicit enforcement provisions for civil penalties that the Delaware law appears to be missing, although DeStefano said it is implied that students will be able to sue based on the new law.
Still, Barnes said she was hopeful that federal and state legislators can work in tandem to protect students’ privacy rights.
Federal action could establish a “permissible floor” for states to build on, she said, adding: “I definitely think Delaware is taking the right step with student privacy legislation.”

STEM Institute to bring together educators, business leaders



More than 400 elementary, middle and high school teachers will join administrators and business leaders at the first annual STEM Institute in Delaware to work together to better prepare students for college and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Sponsored by the Delaware Department of Education in partnership with the Delaware Science Coalition, the institute brings together public school teachers, administrators and the business community to become more familiar with STEM education through trainings and workshops on science, technology, engineering and math materials for their classroom.
“This is a great opportunity to bring together teachers and business leaders who share the goal of ensuring our students graduate ready for college and careers in the STEM field. Working together we can make sure our children can analyze and problem-solve in today’s classrooms and workplaces,” Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said.
At the elementary level, teachers will be trained on Engineering is Elementary units from the Museum of Science in Boston.  The Delaware Science Coalition purchased the units for teachers to use in their classrooms beginning in summer 2011. Since then, more than 260 teachers have been trained on the Engineering is Elementary units and started implementing them into their lessons. At the secondary level, teachers will be trained on Building Math and Engineering the Future. 
Teachers also will learn on how STEM fits into programs at Delaware’s state parks, zoo and nature centers. Other presenters will speak about how Common Core standards in English language arts integrate with STEM education while art education makes STEM into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math).
Jennifer Childress, senior science advisor for Achieve, will speak about the Next Generation Science Standards set for release in 2013 and how the science standards will help all students be college and career ready for the 21st century.
Sponsors for the institute are Scholastic, Carolina Biological, Houghton Mifflin and Compass Learning.

Media is welcome to join the institute, which runs from July 16 to 18 at Providence Creek Academy Charter School, 355 West Duck Creek Road in Clayton. Please RSVP to Alison Kepner at




Delaware STEM Council Releases First Annual Report

(Wilmington, Del.) – Amid the hydroponic soil-less plants that adorn the walls of the state-of-the-art laboratory at the P.S. duPont Middle School, the Delaware STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Council today released a comprehensive report detailing the state of STEM Education in Delaware: its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.

Created by Governor Jack Markell in 2011, the Delaware STEM Council is comprised of 26 appointed members from every corner of the State — a combination of educators, school administrators, business leaders, government officials, and students.   Judson Wagner, STEM Coordinator for the Brandywine School District, and former U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman, himself an engineer, serve as Co-Chairs of the Council.

“It is critical to our national and economic interest that we own STEM innovation in the future as thoroughly as we owned mechanical innovation in the past,” said Governor Markell. “It’s our obligation to Delaware’s future leaders that we equip them with the tools, networks and opportunities that STEM can offer them to ensure their – and our state’s – strongest future.”

“In releasing this report today, we take a clear-eyed look at STEM education in our public schools and we set out an aggressive agenda for improving it,” said Senator Kaufman, Co-Chair of the STEM Council.  “You don’t need a crystal ball to see what the future holds – though not all our students will pursue a STEM career, the vast majority of them will absolutely need some STEM skills to compete.  Our ultimate goal is to create a seamless Pre-K-through-higher education STEM system so that our students have every opportunity to succeed, and provide the workforce to attract STEM businesses to Delaware.”

The work of the Council is divided among six committees with specific areas of concern, specified in the Governor’s executive order. They are: Advisory; Public Education; Women and Minorities; Higher Education; Business Collaboration and Communication; and Program Evaluation and Monitoring.   The 20-page report released today details the challenges facing Delaware schools and is broken down by three separate parts the Council believes are critical to a thriving STEM system: PK-12 Education; Higher Education; and the Business Community.

A highlight of the report follows. For the full text of the annual report and individual committee reports, go to


Over the course of the last year, the Council found that there are numerous efforts to provide quality STEM opportunities for students in Delaware.  Those efforts, however, vary across the state, and are not fully vertically integrated to assure that the needs of the workforce are communicated to higher education and the PK-12 system.

National projections show that STEM occupations will represent the greatest growth in the next decade. We must provide the foundational skills necessary to prepare students for the rigors of basic high school and college level coursework.

  • In Delaware, 2011 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) results show that 8th graders ranked 31st in the country with only 34% scoring proficient or higher in math, and 4th graders ranked 29th in the country with 39% scoring proficient or higher.
  • Delaware’s participation rate in STEM-related AP exams is low, with one AP exam taken for every 73 Delaware public school students, compared to the region’s leader, Maryland, with one AP exam taken for every 43 Maryland public school students, a difference of 69%.
  • While the overall AP STEM passage rate in Delaware is 42%, the passage rates for female students is slightly lower at 40%, and that of African American students is far lower, at 19%, representing the lowest rates in the region.
  • Low AP STEM exam rates translate into high rates of attrition of STEM majors in college, including Delaware’s Institutes of Higher Education.
  • Delaware lacks content-trained STEM teachers, particularly in engineering and technology education. The teacher pipeline necessary to prepare and support students through a STEM focused education has not yet been fully developed.


The recommendations of the Delaware STEM Council serve to address many of the aforementioned areas of weakness and build upon many of the positive aspects of our current educational system and business climate.   (For a more comprehensive list and more detailed explanations, go

The Council proposes to:

  • Develop an independent Delaware STEM Business Network to improve communication between the state’s STEM business leaders and educators.  The Network will also consider how private sector entities may assist in the PK-12 system. Based on other states’ experiences, the Business Network will consider initiatives such as connecting STEM professionals to schools that seek speakers or co-teachers, and offering internship opportunities to students and teachers.
  • Develop a STEM website, that will provide STEM-related information to assist schools, districts, and others who wish to learn about or become involved with STEM opportunities.  The website will eventually provide a clearinghouse of information regarding STEM programs, evaluation tools, events, funding opportunities, and other information.
  • Establish a STEM grants and awards program.  The program will recognize outstanding work by STEM mentors and business supporters and will raise funds for Delaware STEM programs.
  • Identify a STEM contact within each district and charter school to disseminate information regarding STEM funding opportunities, professional development opportunities, and other STEM initiatives.  Convene quarterly roundtable discussions with the district and charter contacts to provide important opportunities to begin regular dialogue and sharing of information and best practices.
  • Create and update an inventory of STEM programs that occur both within and outside of classroom hours.
  • Establish a cadre of women and minority STEM mentors for students beginning at the elementary level.
  • Conduct an in-depth review of PK-12 STEM course offerings to identify areas lacking in STEM opportunities.  The Council completed an initial survey of STEM courses, pathways, and programs, and will be issuing a more detailed follow-up survey.
  • Call for the creation of a STEM coordinator at Department of Education that would coordinate STEM work statewide and provide a common contact for districts and charter schools to aid program development.
  • Establish basic standards that a student must meet in order to succeed in a STEM major in one of Delaware’s colleges or universities. Once the requirements have been established, the coursework will be back-mapped through the PK-12 system.
  • Work with the higher education institutions to establish mentoring and/or internship opportunities for their students.


“Our guiding principle is simple: A solid STEM foundation in primary and secondary schools, coupled with stellar higher education STEM integration, greatly increases one’s chances of obtaining and maintaining a satisfying and high paying STEM career,” said Judson Wagner, STEM Council Co-Chair.  “Though clearly we have a ways to go, we are well-positioned to become a leader in STEM education which will, in turn, attract dynamic and growing businesses to Delaware.  We stand ready to face the challenges.” 





Dr. Doug Hicks Appointed to Governor's STEM Education Council

GEORGETOWN - Delaware Technical Community College is pleased to announce that Governor Jack Markell has appointed Dr. Doug Hicks, Engineering Technology Department Chair from the College’s Owens Campus in Georgetown, to the Delaware STEM Education Council representing Delaware Tech.  The Council was created by Governor Markell in January 2010 to lead efforts in fostering Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education in our schools.
“I recommended Doug for the Council because of his life-long passion for STEM education and student success,” said Delaware Tech President Dr. Orlando J. George, Jr. “I know he will significantly contribute to this important effort and that he will represent the College extremely well.”

The council reports recommendations to the Secretary of the Department of Education and proposes legislation, regulation, and other policies to the Governor and the Education Committees of the General Assembly in the area of STEM education.

Dr. Hicks received his bachelor’s degree in physical oceanography from Cook College/Rutgers University in 1977 and his master’s and doctoral degrees in applied ocean science from the University of Delaware in 1980 and 1985, respectively.  In addition to teaching and managing the Engineering Technologies Department at the Owens Campus, he continues to do design work for CHPT Manufacturing, Inc., a business he started in 1997.  He remains the lead designer for CHPT and has been awarded eight patents covering a broad range of technology.  Dr. Hicks also serves on the board of directors for the Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership and on advisory boards for the University of Delaware Engineering Technology Program and the Delmar High School Technology Program.