“H-E-L-L-O: Students have a
right to privacy in their cell phones.”
That's not just the lament of the empty-eyed Hot Dog on a Stick girl handing you your lunch at the mall. It's the title of a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union's Southern California office, which finds privacy rights are being trampled as more students carry cell phones and more school officials confiscate them because of texting in class.
“Without reasonable suspicion that a student has violated a rule or law using
the phone, beyond simply having it out in the open or turned on in violation of
school policy, there is no legal justification for searching the phone,” says
Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU-SC, in a statement about the new report.
It notes six of every 10 12-year-old and
eight in every 10 17-year-old has a cell phone–and hundreds are being
confiscated every week by school officials. But most
school districts “are failing to provide students, teachers and staff with clear
policies that balance students' legal right to privacy with the need for safety
and order,” the ACLU-SC concludes.
And, for those post-grads who write this off with a
simple “It sucks to be young,” the ACLU-SC offers this sobering finding:
school authorities searching the contents of phones confiscated from
students can easily have access to your photos and information if the
cell service is part of the same family plan.
report, which is being sent to school superintendents statewide, summarizes the results of the
ACLU's examination of search and seizure policies in nearly 200 California
school districts, reviews the current legal limits for searching students'
belongings, and lays out the components of an ideal model policy.
To bone up before storming the next PTA meeting, click here to read the report.