ACLU of Ohio Tells School Officials to Stop Forcing Students to Turn Over Cell Phones

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
November 27, 2007 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Ohio
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

Reading Text Messages Violates Students’ Rights, Group Says


MASON, OH – In a letter today to Dr. David Allen, principal at William Mason High School, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio warned school officials that their current practice of seizing student cell phones and reading personal text messages was poor policy and unconstitutional. Recently, the ACLU of Ohio received complaints from students and parents at the school because several administrators began confiscating phones and reading private text messages to determine if the students attended private parties off school grounds during the weekend.

ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeffrey Gamso said, “School officials cannot just confiscate a student’s private property because they think a student attended a party after school hours. Attendance at a private party that does not disrupt classes and does not occur on school grounds is none of the school’s business. Private student social activities are issues for parents, not the school.”

Gamso continued, “Forcing young people to hand over their cell phones simply so officials may read the text messages would be no better than requiring a student to bring in their personal diary so officials could inspect it. It is a grave violation of the students’ privacy.”

Throughout the past several weeks, the ACLU of Ohio has received numerous complaints from students and parents at William Mason High School. Some complained that staff threatened them with disciplinary action if they refused to turn over their cell phones.

In his letter to the school, Gamso also claimed that the school’s actions were curtailing the students’ free speech rights by instilling fear in them that any text message they send or receive may be read by the school.

Gamso concluded, “Schools do not have a right to confiscate students’ personal property in order to investigate something that may or may not have even occurred, and if it did, was outside of school property and on students’ free time. Young people do not shed their constitutional rights at the school door and barring an incident that disrupts the learning process, schools should allow parents to monitor their children outside of school.”

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

The Latest in Smart Justice

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About Smart Justice

Smart Justice issue image

The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice is an unprecedented, multiyear effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50% and to challenge racism in the criminal legal system.