School Principals And Minors

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about students’ information:

Can a school principal look though a minor’s cell phone pictures?

Signed, ???

DearĀ ???:

Your question deserves a legal answer and we don’t provide legal advice; however, school officials, parents and students should think through an answer to this question. There is help. This issue was answered as early as 2006 in Boston; however you might not like the way it was answered. I’m including the text an Internet piece on this and after that an article about another incident on this topic two years later. Should Principals Be Allowed to Review Students’ Cell Phone Records? by Andy Carvin, 4:49PM http://www.pbs.org/teachers/learning.now/2006/07/should_principals_be_allowed_t.html

A Boston-area school district is asserting the right to search students’ cell phones for inappropriate information. Does this policy, one of the first of its kind in the US, cross the line? According to today’s Metro West Daily News, principals in the town of Framingham, Massachusetts have been given the go-ahead to examine students’ cell phones and review all of their contents while searching for contraband. Quoting from the article: High school administrators under a new policy are claiming the right to snatch information stored in students’ cell phones when they search for drugs or stolen property at school. The change clarifies the school’s search and seizure policy, adding cell phones to the list of places school officials can snoop if they suspect a student has contraband. Federal law says school officials need only “reasonable suspicion” of the presence of drugs or stolen goods to conduct searches. “We reserve the right to look through the cell phone,” Principal Michael Welch said. “It would be no different than if a student were to have a notebook. We’ve had instances of graffiti. We’ve looked through a notebook and found identical instances of graffiti.” “I find it troubling,” ACLU attorney John Reinstein said in the article. “They’re essentially going on a fishing expedition. It’s not based on a reasonable expectation that the student has anything unlawful on a cell phone. It’s simply they want to look there. They’re behaving more like police than school officials.” Now examine a second time this question became national news: About two years ago, this was an issue before an Ohio high school.

You can find a description on Should School Administrators Be Allowed To Read Students’ Text Messages? http://www.alloy.com/4/69/5872/1/ I have included the text of an article about it because it covers the matter quite completely. I side with the student and I also recommend that schools place boundaries on the use of cell phones/cameras/Internet that limit them to classroom appropriate subject matter. Here is the text of the article that provides an answer to your question: Could the texts on your phone get you in trouble at school?

Administrators at William Mason High School in Ohio have reportedly been confiscating students’ cell phones and reading text messages to find out if they’re attending private parties off school grounds during the weekend, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio reports. And if students refuse to turn over their phones, administrators have threatened them with disciplinary action. So the ACLU of Ohio has scolded the school’s principal, calling the practice unconstitutional and a violation of free speech. “Attendance at a private party that does not disrupt classes and does not occur on school grounds is none of the school’s business,” says ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeffrey Gamso. “Private student social activities are issues for parents, not the school.” Forcing students to give over their cell phones for inspection is the equivalent of requiring them to hand over their diaries, he says — they both violate students’ privacy.

School district spokeswoman Tracey Carson tells the Middletown Journal that she was unaware of any situation at the high school where students’ cell phones were confiscated, but that students are prohibited from using cell phones during school. If a cell phone rings or is used during class, an administrator or teacher can confiscate the device until the end of the day, according to the district’s policy. In conclusion, I think students’ rights are important and that they learn what about law and citizenship within the school environment. The school a workplace for teachers and staff. They too should help students learn what is acceptable and legal. Learning and working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that includes school grounds.

William Gorden