Confiscated phones and the right to search

Anna Simek, Copy Editor

Random searches are synonymous with Joliet West. Whether it is in the classroom or in the morning before all classes begin, all West students groan when the word “search” comes up in conversation. The purpose of random searches is to maintain a safe and secure learning environment.

At the beginning of the current school year, many teachers told students that if they possessed an electronic device that did not fit into their pocket or purse, such as an iPad or laptop, they would be allowed to use them in the classroom as long as there was teacher permission. Since cell phones fit into purses and pockets, they were not a part of this policy, and it remains that cell phones are not allowed in the classroom.

“Cell phones are confiscated during random classroom searches because the current district policy states that ‘electronic devices must be turned off upon entry into the school building and secured in student lockers.’  Therefore, having a cell phone in the classroom is a violation of this policy, and confiscation is the consequence. Staff who are conducting searches in classrooms are not going to disregard the electronic device policy simply because finding cell phones isn’t the purpose of the search,” says Mr. Hallihan, assistant principal.

Some students even claim that when their cell phone is confiscated during a random classroom search, the administration goes through their phone, searching for text messages and even pictures. These same students complain that the administrators have no right to go through their personal belongings because it infringes on their rights. On page 181 of the student planner that each student is given before the school year begins, it says, “Electronic devices may be reviewed for content.”

“The content of students’ cell phones and other devices is only reviewed when necessary as an integral part of a discipline investigation.  This rarely, if ever, happens. The content of confiscated cell phones is never randomly reviewed by deans or administrators,” said Mr. Hallihan.

Although nearly all students at West dislike random searches and getting their phones confiscated, the administration will not go through a student’s phone, unless they have reason to. This policy is being reconsidered for next school year, to support the 1:1 technology incentive.