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Search of Student’s Cell Phone Ruled Illegal

Posted by on March 31, 2013 in In The News - 1 Comment
Courts issues clearer guidelines for viewing of students' text messages.

Court issues clearer guidelines for viewing of students’ text messages.

On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a ruling that will limit the ability of teachers or school officials from viewing the contents of students’ cell phones.  As reported by the Wall Street Journal, this case involved a student who was caught texting in class.  His cell phone was confiscated and provided to the assistant principal, who then read several of the messages.  The student, who has since graduated, did not dispute the school’s right to confiscate his phone.  However, he believed his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when they read the messages.  The Fourth Amendment states that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”  In other words, he felt that viewing his text messages was akin to a search without a warrant.  The school argued that the student had previously confided in a guidance counselor that he had smoked marijuana and that he had suicidal thoughts.  The court did not find that those concerns justified their actions, and further stated, “A search is justified at its inception if there is reasonable suspicion that a search will uncover evidence of further wrongdoing or of injury to the student or another. Not all infractions involving cell phones will present such indications.”

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