Parents Enraged After School Tampers With Students' Cell Phones

After teachers at an Oregon middle school confiscated students’ cell phones and deleted video of a confrontation between a student and a teacher, parents are fuming, saying that their children's rights were violated.

The trouble began last week when a scuffle broke out in the school gym between a student who refused to remove his hat and a teacher at R.A. Brown Middle School in Hillsboro. The episode, which was captured on film by fellow students using their cell phones, shows two teachers circling the child and trying to escort him out of the gym. The boy was ultimately suspended and arrested for disorderly conduct and harassment.

Khloey Summers was one of several students who filmed the incident on a cell phone until a teacher grabbed her phone and said, “I’m going to have to hold on to this for a while.” Khloey told KATU that later that day, teachers confiscated all the phones used to record the incident and deleted each student's video. When Khloey’s phone was returned, she says, her messaging apps and photos had also been opened, presumably to check whether she had emailed the video or sent it via text message.

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“Granted, she’s 13 [but] she still has rights,” her mother, Melissa Siegel, told KATU. “Clearly, I don’t feel like my daughter did anything wrong. I feel like her rights are violated, by going through her phone and text messages.”

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Siegel stands in solidarity with Celia Watt, the mother of the boy who was the subject of the video. She admits that her son misbehaved but says that erasing the evidence was extreme. “Deleting videos after accusing someone? That’s just suspicious behavior,” Watt told KATU.

While Yahoo Shine could not reach Khloey, Siegel, Watt, or a representative from R.A. Brown Middle School for comment, the “search and seizure” section of the student handbook, obtained by KATU, says in part, "Building administrators may search the person, personal property, and student vehicles and seize property deemed dangerous and detrimental to the safety and welfare of the students and staff." However, there are no rules about whether the school can destroy student property. What’s more, the students used their cell phones before classes began that day, which, Kholey told the station, is allowed.

According to Fran Walfish, PsyD, a Beverly Hills-based child psychologist, while the school has the right to ask that students remove their hats, destroying students' personal property is plain wrong. “The way the boy behaved on the video was not normal, however, deleting the recordings was a violation of the students’ rights,” she tells Yahoo Shine.

If the school wants to prevent a similar issue from happening in the future, it should simply ban cell phones from the campus, suggests Walfish, adding, “The school could have been trying to avoid a lawsuit by deleting the videos, but it may have inadvertently invited one."

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