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Supreme Court Cell Phone Ruling Could Impact School Policy

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As districts prepare for the beginning of another school year, building teams are having conversations around a number of key issues, from class schedules to busing to the impact of new state laws. School leaders should also be aware of a recent U.S. Supreme Court case that could influence policies related to student and staff cell phone use.

In June, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that police have no right to "rummage at will" through a person's cell phone. Specifically, the ruling held that, "The police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cell phone seized from an individual who has been arrested."

This decision came in response to two court cases--Riley v. California and the United States v. Wurie-- in which police performed warrantless searches on cell phones at the time of an arrest leading to evidence of criminal activity that was then used to charge and prosecute two individuals. The opinion of the court, delivered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and joined by Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan is that the search and seizure of cell phones falls under the Fourth Amendment, requiring police to "get a warrant."

As the use of tablets, cell phones, and other digital devices grows in schools across the country, K-12 talent managers and other district leaders should be mindful of student and staff rights when it comes to the review of information on personal property. As always, consult your district's legal counsel with any questions. 

What is your district's policy on cell phone use, and how might the Supreme Court's decision impact these rules?

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