Back to School: Students and Privacy
Privacy in public schools is an issue the SCOTUS has addressed many times before. Years ago, the High Court ruled that while students did have a 4th amendment right to privacy [i.e. to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures that are not based on probable cause], that right is not absolute in light of the need for safety and order in the public schools.
School administrators can, however, go too far despite the leeway they have under the law. In 2009, the Supreme Court, for example, made strip searches of students difficult to justify in most cases. But what about searching a student's cell phone data or social media platforms?
In the handful of cases addressing a student's right to privacy within the data contained on their cell phones, the SCOTUS has consistently held that such searches are not necessarily unreasonable. The basis of these holdings is the substantial governmental interest in having teachers maintain order and control of their classrooms.
The High Court has also held, however, that once a student's cell phone has been seized, the phone can be examined by administrators [i.e. state actors] to view the student's contacts and call or text history. On the other hand, one case held that using the student's phone to send text messages -presumably to set-up another student and to cement the case against the detained student- is an unreasonable search.
Although some cases involving students' and teachers' use of social media have percolated through the court system, the SCOTUS has not accepted "the case", yet. We here at the Law Blogger believe that case is out there and will be making headlines soon as it makes its way through the court system.
If you or a family member have an issue involving a teacher's seizure of a cell phone or have experienced discipline relating to a student's use of social media, contact our law firm for a free consultation.