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Leave The Constitution At The Door

How much privacy can a student expect to have while at school?

Not much according to one Colorado school district where “at least 13 students reported having their cell phones taken and their text messages read at the end of last school year”.

According to the ACLU, parents say that administrators told students they have no privacy rights when on school property, meaning officials can seize phones and read text messages; that they misled students to gain possession of their friends’ cell phones; and that they sent text messages from confiscated phones to other students, pretending to be the phone’s owner.

The attitude of school administrators towards students seems to be pretty consistent with the current view of privacy rights for all citizens (we can do anything in the name of security) by governments at all levels.

However, I find the general acceptance of the situation by this senior even more disturbing.

But senior Jenna Frazier, 17, said she understands the administration’s need to keep students safe by following leads on possible criminal behavior.

“We do lose rights when we come here,” she said. “They can search our cars and our lockers, and it’s understandable to keep kids safe.”

Can we really do anything, including stripping kids of all rights, in the name of keeping them safe?

Do actions like these make students safer at school or just more mistrusting of adults?

privacy, constitution, rights, school, students

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2 Comments

  1. Tim,

    It’s not just the students whose rights are compromised: we teachers have been advised by our Union that any email sent or received during school hours or on the school server are subject to FOIL.

    We’ve had an administrator caution us not to respond to a particular parent, or discuss anything to do with her child, via email, but to refer any and all inquiries to the superintendent.

    There is a general atmosphere of mistrust, of not respecting teachers as responsible professionals, that I find troubling.

    diane

  2. First of all, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that schools do what is in the best interest of the academic atmosphere of the student. This means that you don’t have “probable cause” in regards to a search, you have “reasonable suspicion”. And while I think that teachers reading kids text messages is immature, I’d bet that the teachers had caught the kids texting in class, a much bigger problem.

    As for the teachers and rights, teachers are protected by the 4th Amendment, except that a classroom is not property. And I’m always blown away by teachers that think that it is immoral for admin to check computers (surfing, e-mail). I mean, it’s their computers, and like any corporation, they should be able to check what employees do. It’s not an illegal search, it’s good management.

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