Student cell phone confiscation and searches


According to this article, one Texas school district is now allowing for the confiscation of cell phones from students who display or use them at school, and is considering levying a retrieval fee.  I had mentioned in a comment to a previous post by Justin that other districts are definitely requiring a fee of either $15 or $25 for a confiscated cell phone to be returned to a parent of the offending student.  I personally am in support of such a policy, as it affects one’s pocketbook and inconveniences the parent who has to come to school to deal with the matter.  Another article from Wyoming details a new policy (which still requires final approval but is on its way) allowing a student’s cell phone to be searched.  The search can occur if the phone is “suspected to have materials that pose a threat to the welfare of the school population.”  Maybe this language is intentionally broad.  Or, maybe the language is sufficiently narrow because such a “threat” might conjure up similar conceptions in the minds of reasonable persons.  What do you think?  Who will be able to articulate such a suspicion?  Teachers?  Administrators?  Student peers?  Bus drivers? Cafeteria workers?  Will this lead to 4th Amendment violations of students, or is this definitely the way to go nowadays in order to prevent harm, victimization, and criminal activity among youth?  Seemingly, materials on a cell phone that might pose a threat to the welfare of the school population could include evidence of textual harassment of a teacher or another student; inappropriate pictures or videos involving nudity, drugs, weapons, or other contraband; or even web history files that indicate the student was visiting a bomb-making or anti-establishment web site.  Can you think of any other possibilities? Could this policy be abused and lead to more headaches for the district?


  1. Hi,

    My daughter is 13 years old and her teacher confiscated her phone because it went off during class. The teacher then went on to check her text messages. The teacher kep the phone for the weekend and made calls to my daughter's friends during the weekend. He also texted my daughter's friends with my daughter's phone.

    Does he have the right to do that? I could understand confiscating the phone but reading her private text messages and texting with her phone does not seem to be right.

    Does anyone have any legal references to such cases?

    Have a great day!

  2. I guess everybody has rights. However, my right to earn a living as a teacher is violated when parents, knowing the school's rule about cell phone,will contact their kids during my class. Kid answers the call, breaks the rule, and disrupts my right to teach. wWhat was life like before cell phones?

  3. I completely agree with the school having the ability to confiscate and hold cell phones for a fee. I think that's a fantastic idea, and one that should be instituted nation-wide. I, however, do not think schools should have the right to search cell phones.

    All citizens, including children, are covered by our nation's Constitution. Schools being able to seize and search students' property is a clear violation of their Constitutional rights. That being said, there should be recourse for the school if they feel something illegal or harmful is going on concerning a student's cell phone. This is where local law enforcement comes in.

    If the school administration thinks there is a reason to search a child's cell phone, they should have no problem calling local law enforcement. Not only is it the correct thing to do, it would scare the offender, who has probably not had much dealing with the law (although… some of these kids…).

  4. Cellphones should be allowed in school for emergencies. Yes they can be destracting but alot of accidents happen and kids need a way to contact their parents. Also school's take away kids cellphones often lose or misplace them. Imagine having to replace a 230$ iphone for no apparent reason at all.

  5. Of course the schools have a recourse.. Call the police to investigate the crime, then they will be able to obtain a warrant if the judge thinks it is necessary. It is not up to the educators to make constitutional policy, that's just as bad, or worse than judges legislating from the bench.

    To Richard's point; Yes everyone has rights, but the last time I read the Constitution, the right to teach was not included; but the 4th amendment clearly protects people from unwarranted search and seizure. You should understand that your "Job" is to teach, not your "Right"

  6. Steve: I would agree with you that the 4th amendment protects people from unwarranted search and seizure. However, the Supreme Court has ruled (New Jersey V. T.L.O.) that school officials can search student belongings if they have "reasonable" cause to do so. This is a lower standard than probable cause, which police officers must follow. It would seem that a teacher confiscating a cell phone would not automatically have reasonable cause to search its contents and messages. That would appear to be an unreasonable search without some other context. If schools had to "call the police to investigate the crime" it would be at best inefficient and a drain on resources.

    The rights of students in school are not the same as the rights of the rest of us, according to the Court–from drug testing to free speech to countless other topics.

    When Richard said: "my right to earn a living as a teacher is violated when parents, knowing the school’s rule about cell phone,will contact their kids during my class", I'm fairly certain he was not referring to an actual right that was spelled out in the constitution. Ignoring that misses his point. Cellphone use in schools has become a distraction to learning. If there is an urgent message, a parent can call the office.

  7. My son had his cell phone fall out of his pocket while in class. The teacher took the cell phone then my son's phone went off with a text message the teacher went through his phone then turned it into the office which in turn went through all his messages and gave me his phone back suspended him then expelled him for some of the content in his text messages. My son is an athlete as well which this has now taken away his whole junior season and is killing his chances of ever playing in college. He is nationally ranked well was nationally ranked.

    We have a lawyer by the way.

  8. While I do agree that having a cell phone in a classroom is incredibly disruptive, I also believe confiscating them is not a good option.

  9. No they dont hav the right to search it.. Yes schools have the right to take kids cellphone but they have no right to look at messages it is a privacy policy. Its like school have random locker searches,and they can do that because the lockers are the schools property but your own cell phone is your property and to search it they would need a warrent just like they would to search your house casue that is your property..

  10. I think teachers should NOT be able to read the students text messages. They should at least let the student take out the battery and keep it while the teacher has the phone. It's an invasion of privacy when teachers read them. It's not right.

  11. the texas education code allows for the school board to adopt a ''policy'' that gives the staff the ability to ''confiscate ''phones

    1. confiscate does not mean seize, it means to take something with no lawful authority-legal definition.

    2. violates art 1 sec 9 and sec 19 of the texas constitution, searches and seizures

    3. texas education code sec 37.082 does prohibit cell phones , but does not give them seizure powers.

    4. if you never had the power to take it, seize it, how do they have the power to deprive me of it, under texas penal code sec 31.01

    5. they do not.

    6. how does something go from from a confiscated state, to a seized state, with no warrant.

    7. it does not, they are holding it against my will , demanding a fee or reward, wich they can constitutes a criminal attempt.

    8. do not pay the fee , they do not have a blanket warrant ,or seizure powers.

    9. stand fast , and grow a spine , tell them ''no'' and get your shit back, like I did.

    10. they will not answer these questions. the boaard will not not engage in a legal discussion, they will parrot policy and handbook, code of conduct, well your code of conduct can not violate the constitution.

    11. they will not take a chance on getting it into a legal venue, because it will not pass a constitutional test.

    12. the police will not touch it with a 10 foot pole, and stood by as I got it back.

    start asking some questions, texas, I am not against confiscating cell phones , but when you start selling me my own property back you crossed the line, and started subverting the texas constitution 15 dollars at a time, so tough shit teachers, you are full of shit.

  12. I am 16 years old and still attending High School,

    My phone fell out of my pocket while I was in my 2nd period math class.

    My teacher attempted to confiscate it from me and I refused and sent myself to the office to plead my case the "Doc" the assistant principal in charge of discipline,

    He told me if i did not turn my phone in then I would be forced to attend "I.S.S." or In School Suspension, until I gave in and gave them my phone, and if I chose not to turn in my phone then i would stay in I.S.S. for 10 days then have to go to D.A.E.P. which is an Alternative Eduction Program for horribly misbehaved children, and I would stay there for 30 [or more] days. Which I think is just absurd. I was doing nothing wrong and I was being threatened with I.S.S. and D.A.E.P..

    Before I surrendered my phone to the teacher, as apposed to D.A.E.P., I went into the bathroom and removed the memory card and battery.

    My good friend, Jesse, has that class the period after I do, and he informed me later that day that the teacher was trying to turn my phone on and possibly go though my personal messages or media.

    I think if a teacher is going to confiscate a cell phone they should have a legitimate reason.

  13. Sage, good for you for attempting to stand up for your rights. This country needs more liberty minded people who put their own rights and freedoms above the authority of the state. Also, prudent thinking to remove the battery and media card.

  14. My phone got taken for playing it during lunchtime, when every1 else was, only my phone got taken. Luckily i keep a code on my phone and it is in half when i gave it in to her, she said i will never get it back…..

    Should i tell the head? Our head is new and SAFE, so can i get her sacked?

  15. At my school in Texas, phones may be taken up prior to the begining of school (7:30 a.m.) as well as at lunch. The logic behind such actions fails me. If I spend my time sitting in the cafateria texting or using my phone for other activities I am not disrupting other students rights.

    I have had my phone taken up by administrators during lunchtime while phoning my mother to arrange a ride after school.

  16. I go to KIPP:Aspire Academ,My friend had his phone out because he was making a call to his dad AFTER school, a techer saw him an took away his phone. Later the school went through his phone and found some inapropriate pictures taken outside of school. They expalled him the next day because of the pictures he had on his phone

    They had no right going through his phone outside of school, and especially the pictures because they did not have any propable cause!

  17. I think that teachers shouldn't have the right to go thru your fone it's ur property, not theres. technicaly in the 4th admenment they don't have the right to go thru ur fone.

  18. There are many cases every day about teachers taking phones from students, and goin through them. They do not have a right to go through your phone they can take it but cannot sell it back to you or go through it. I'm currently a junior in high school and teachers have taken my phone because i have a lanyard on it with my house key and the lanyard was hanging out of my pocket. I have also had my phone taken away because it was in my backpack( might I tell you wasn't near me) and went off because my mom was trying to tell me that my sister was going to the hospital. It is a huge hassle to get put through to a class room suring school hours and some offices wont even do that they send you to a answering macheine and with that you may not get this suppose to be urgent message till lunch which could be 2-3 hours from then or if we get the message at all.

  19. My daughter had her phone taken away for 5 days and her father and I were not allowed to pick it up before the 5 days or she would have to serve ISS for the remainder of the time. She used the phone to text me in between classes to tell me that a teacher had embarrassed her by telling her that she was in violation of a dress code and the teacher asked her if she painted those jeans on her. She was completely humiliated. She text me to ask if I can bring her a different pair of pants. They sent her to the library to where the gym shorts that they give out to students who get dress code violations. Then when she went back to put on another pair of jeans they asked her how her mom knew she needed another pair of jeans and she was scared and said she called from the office. The teacher knew she was lying and told her that they would have not allowed that then she told the truth and they brought her to the assistant principal and took her phone from her. She was a new student from a different state and was not sure of the schools policy of not being able to contact her mother for a dress code violation. This school crossed the line and now has told my daughter that if she has a problem in school that she can contact them first and they will decided on whether I need to get involved???? What is the public school system? Are they educators or a prison system????

  20. Hello my name is Ryan

    I was sent to ISS because some dick wad said i had a bomb which i didn't was just i have my coffee cup and alot of books in my bag anyway off topic… while i was in ISS the ISS teacher noted that my pocket light up because my mother was calling me to tell me that i had to find a ride home she was going out town for the day anyways i told him no he couldn't have it because he had no right of searching me -as he was patting me down< – doing so he then grabs my pocket where my phone was and Ripped the pocket right off with some of my shirt luckly i was wearing a undershirt.. but he took my bag of books my phone and my book bag and told me i would not get them back… i have brought it up with the police and they said they can't do anything about it…if i'm forced to go to iss again i will take the law into my own hands

  21. Personally, I believe teachers have a right to confiscate cell phones, but the school has no right to look through the cell phone. My suggestion is, take the battery and memory card out.

    In my school, students are permitted to have cell-phones at all times. Students may use them in the halls and during free periods in which NO TEACHER may confiscate them since social life is very important where I live in New York. However, when a student enters a classroom, the cell phone has to at least be turned to silent. Teachers act differently all the time.

    This is how schools should do it. It gives students at least some freedom.

  22. I am a college student and I have never had the need to constantly keep my phone on while in class. If you have a problem with school officials searching your phone either don't bring it to school or make sure it is turned of at all times while you are at school. If schools have to fine students to keep them from having their phones on or out during class time then they should do it.

  23. I'm in highschool and while I'm certainly not the smartest guy around, I know enough to keep my phone on vibrate with the screen facing toward my leg during class. I've personally k
    ever had it confiscated or seized and searched, but I know a few people who have. A friend of mine was expelled last year for having a joke image on his phone, simply because it contained a reference to pot. His phone was initially seized because it fell out of his pocket and went off during class.

  24. My son has recently had his phone confiscated during school when it fell out of his cargo pocket. The phone was off, yet the teacher took it anyway and turned it into the office. The school is now trying to charge us 15$ to get the phone back, which is extortion any way you look at it. The office complains when students come to use the phone to contact their parents, so we got our 14 year old son a cell phone to be able to reach us if there was an emergency, or something had happened to his three younger sisters at school. He was not violating any rules by having it in his pocket and turned off, so why should they confiscate it from him?

  25. Confiscation and examination of phones would very easily be determined in court to be an illegal search and seizure.

    Those parents who have been treated this way by so-called educators, even if this sort of action seems to be minor, really have a moral obligation to challenge this behavior, legally if necessary

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