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Lombardi Law Firm

Do high school teachers have the right to confiscate a student's cell phone?

Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death

Blog Category:
2/27/2013
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Today’s question is one I’ve been asked before. A student has a tiff with a teacher over a cell phone and now wants a lawyer to help her or a friend to get out of trouble. But this really isn’t about law or lawyers. It’s about why we even have schools. This lawyer is a parent and a taxpayer who has had enough of this nonsense and asks why parents can't seem to understand why empowering children in this way is wrong. And so begin asking a simple question, why is this student in need of a cell phone, let alone the advice of a lawyer?

Question: Is it legal for a teacher to ask a student to show messages on his phone?
Question Detail: Someone had stolen an iPod and my female principal had made me empty my bag and pockets to see if I had it. While my phone was on the table, I had gotten a text and she made me open it and show her and she left the room with my phone. She was not gone for long.

Answer: Yes it’s legal, why would you think it isn’t? Get a clue, when at school you’re a student guest. But, what about that message; was there an admission against interest you didn't want her to see, an admission of who did the crime, in the text message? It's a sign of the times that makes me both curious and bit puzzled. The school and all its buildings are someone's property and the students are not the owners. Any other place the owners set rules and those on the property are visitors and they have to follow the rules. A school board owns the school and they along with the principal set the rules for how the property they own shall be managed. Now I understand school in America is “compulsory”, but still that doesn’t make rule setting the prerogative of non-adult student guests. It's like the patients running the asylum. Because let’s face it 99.99% of those students don’t pay property taxes, adults do. As a person permitted to use the property students should be following the rules they set for managing this very valuable asset. But how about this as an option, why not leave your cell phone in your car or at your parents’ home and then no teacher can read any messages you may receive. That way instead of writing to lawyers you can study and hopefully learn, which if my memory serves me correctly is why you're supposed to be in school.

How about that for a lawyer’s answer? Now get to class.

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