Cyberbullying and the Fourth Amendment Right to Privacy

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has swiftly responded to the Fairfield school board’s proposed amendments to its Internet use policy, contending that the proposed policy amendments will run afoul of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Fairfield School Board, under the direction of Superintendent David Title, has outlined changes to the type of content that students can access while at school.  While bans on viewing pornography and other illegal or explicit content have always been enforceable, the ACLU has taken issue with the amendment’s policy that would allow school administrators to look through students’ personal computers and devices to ensure that not only are students not looking at illegal or explicit content, but that they are not harassing or bullying other students online.  Such a policy, of course, invokes the right to privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

Specifically, the ACLU has taken issue with a particular provision of the policy that reads, “Digital storage and electronic devices used for school purposes, whether district or personally owned, will be treated as district technology resources.  Therefore, all students must be aware that they should not have any expectation of personal privacy in the use of these resources.”  The provision does not distinguish between personally owned computers or devices, and school-owned devices.  So long as the device is used for “school purposes,” it would fall under the umbrella of this policy.

The school board met again last night, and was tasked with striking a better balance between a student’s right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment and the need for schools to ensure that students are not viewing illegal content or harassing other students using devices meant for school purposes. The results of that meeting have yet to be released.

If you have questions relating to your child’s rights when it comes to personal devices used in school settings, or about education or bullying law in general, contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq., in our Westport office, at 203-221-3100, or at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Sources:

http://fairfield.patch.com/articles/school-board-rethinks-changes-to-student-internet-use-policy

www.fairfieldcitizenonline.com/news/article/ACLU-Schools-Internet-policy-changes-would-3893322.php

http://www.fairfieldcitizenonline.com/news/article/ACLU-asks-school-board-to-reject-amendment-to-3914671.php

http://fairfield.dailyvoice.com/schools/fairfield-schools-web-policy-faces-aclu-challenge