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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Texting, School, & The Man

I've been following the ACLU's charge of violation of privacy against Monarch High School: the gist is that some sophomore in trouble for loitering had his cell phone snagged by the school's security guard as it was a "distraction." The rent-a-cop then read his text messages, incriminating requests for dope to other students. The security guard then contacted those students via text posing as a student to see what else he could dig up.

That's shady. The kid's parents are of course worked up over the invasion of privacy, not the dope conversations. Regardless, where does privacy end at school? I don't recall ever imagining a sense of privacy at school growing up; maybe it was the first years in parochial school that got me used to (and subsequently hyper-sensitive to) other people presuming to be in your business all the time...

Read the ACLU's legal accusations here.

7 comments:

KERRY BENSMAN said...

So let's see, Dan. A nun finds a note you have written to a classmate willing to sell an ounce of the green stuff to one of your classmates (No text messagin with cell phones back then.). She blows the whistle on you and the ACLU shows up.

What would happen? And what would your parents have done? How would the school adminstrators have reacted in those days? I'd like to see anyone arguing invasion of privacy back then.

Doktorbombay said...

Technology advances always cause the definition of privacy to change, and always will.

Companies never monitored local phone calls to assure you weren't conducting personal business on the phone, but several of them monitor computer use. They never made you turn in everything written on paper, but everything you enter into your company computer is subject to scrutiny.

Times change, technology changes. That doesn't mean we automatically relinquish our rights. And, it doesn't mean things were done necessarily rightly or wrongly in the past.

In this case, the security guard violated the students privacy, by accessing his text messages. And, then went way too far by posing as the student and contacting other students. One thing to confiscate the phone, totally different to access any info on the phone.

I doubt the media will be privy to what the parents are doing about the drug issue, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Most parents would deal with this appropriately, to assume otherwise is not fair to the parents.

KERRY BENSMAN said...

D-B,

Now the parents have a dilemna. How do they and their son stay out of the media focus? While they argue invasion of privacy, the media will be shining the light on their son's and their classmates behavior. Just look at the ACLU letter.

This has to be all over Monarch including the classmates and their parents. Note this all happend out of the media spotlight until the ACLU stepped in.

So who went to the ACLU and were they aware of the impact on the parents and their son?

Dan Powers said...

I can understand getting in trouble for contents of a note; I meant I never presumed to be somehow protected from scrutiny when at school. But it's the contacting later under the guise of being a student that gets too big brotherish for me.

KERRY BENSMAN said...

Maybe the security guard had watched too many episodes of 24 or Law and Order where the good guys find the "bad guys" cell phone, check the cell phone numbers, etc. without a warrant.

What is being left unsaid is what motivated the security guard and the school to do this, i.e was this student a security risk, etc. that "bad", etc. Monarch had reported the highest number of drug related incidents and was there pressure to investigate the causes.

What may be of interest to the blog is the drug related questions the youth advisory board asked the candidates. Do these members know something we don't know?

dreamer-believer said...

What were the drug related questions the Youth Advisory board asked council candidates?

Doktorbombay said...

This conversaation shows exactly how our rights slowly erode.

The conversation has switched from being one about protection of privacy to one about illegal drugs, and how solving illegal activites justifies circumventing personal rights.

I don't have a problem with confiscating the phone. Cellphones can be a huge distraction in schools. The privacy line was crossed when the security guard accessed any information on the phone - a privately owned electronic device. This is a security guard, not a police officer, and he sure as hell didn't have a search warrant to access this private information.

When we're willing to relinquish our individual rights we are no longer a free society. Even if it's under the guise of making us "safer".