In a previous post (HERE) we told of a Scranton, PA teenage girl who was suing her school, school district, the county, prosecutors and a detective for illegally searching her cell phone. The search turned up intimate photos of the teen which had never been transmitted to anyone else, or any other cell phone.
The school district has settled the lawsuit without admitting any wrongdoing for $33,000. There is still an active lawsuit against the Wyoming County District Attorney’s Office, which so far has not commented on the suit.
The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the district attorney could not pursue felony charges against the teenage girl for “sexting”.
In a statement released by the Pennsylvania ACLU the teen said “I hope this settlement will lead school officials in the future to consider whether they have valid grounds to search students’ private text messages, emails and photos.”
The big question remains unanswered. How far can educators go when it comes to fulfilling their obligation to keep sexually explicit images, audio and text from reaching the eyes and ears of minors on school grounds?
Since the case didn’t make it to a federal jury, school districts around the country have a challenge in creating a standard cell phone search or seizure policy that will be acceptable to the courts and privacy groups.
The ACLU recommends that districts adopt cell phone policies that permit educators to seize devices if they disrupt the learning process, but to not search them without express consent from the student or their legal guardian.