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Administrators have valid resoning behind cell phone confiscations

Photo by Parker Sutherland.

With the world rapidly bending to the will of technology, there are few defenses left to combat the influence devices such as iPods, kindles and cell phones have on Americans’ lives. As a generation mesmerized by the lure of instantaneous communication, high school students now live in a privileged world where they can talk to anyone at anytime practically anywhere. It’s no wonder teens text more than they talk nowadays, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project’s research center.

However, by opting for a more tangible form of conversation as their main way of communication, teens put themselves in a vulnerable situation – others can easily see and read everything they say at any point in time. Students at Adlai E. Stevenson High School learned this the hard way, when administrators, trying to catch drug dealings, confiscated students’ phones.

In a world where 47 percent of teens credit their social lives to tiny cellular devices, 74 percent of teenagers in the U.S. use cell phones and teens send an average of 80 texts a day, an intrusion into the bubble can reveal almost everything.

Individuals can, and have, lost some rights when the good of the people outweigh the cons, including President Abraham Lincoln suspending habeas corpus during the Civil War. The situation is the same when administrators confiscated students’ cell phones at Stevenson High School to try to catch those involved in drug dealings.

Administrators have a duty to find and report illicit activities that could endanger the student population; drug dealing is one of these activities. Administrators are within their rights to search and seize student cell phones to try to prevent  illegal activity.

It is within the school policy to allow administrators to confiscate the cell phones. The policy follows the same logic that law officers follow when, with probable cause, they search cars for suspected drugs. It is the same breach of privacy in both cases. The administration’s decision is backed by New Jersey v. T.L.O. T.L.O. was a student accused of smoking at school; after denying the allegations, administration searched her purse and found cigarettes. The Supreme Court upheld the actions of the administration, saying the student’s right to privacy had not been violated, since students have reduced expectations of privacy in school.

Some critics may argue that the administration should have gotten a warrant before their search and seizure. However, many schools do not have easy access to judges who will grant them a warrant, thus slowing down the process and giving guilty students enough time to eliminate evidence from their phones and themselves. In fact, students’ personal property can already be searched, as seen in the T.L.O. case ruling.

Why should cell phones be subjected to different rules than the rest of students’ belongings? Do they have some sort of “elite and privileged” status? This thinking is illogical – cell phones are personal property, just like purses, which can be searched under law and policy.

Administrators at Stevenson High School had legal precedent to confiscate students’ cell phones looking for evidence for drug dealings. However, to avoid such conflicts in the future at Rock Bridge, administrators should inform students what our policy will be if such a situation occurs.

Making the information more publicly known will reduce public outcry if such a problem would occur at RBHS. And then if needed, administrators can respond quickly and effectively to reduce the potential danger to the student body.

By Walter Wang and Daphne Yu 

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