Court holds search of student's cell phone texts may have denied due process; violated Fourth Amendment
A 10th grader at Owensboro Public Schools was denied open enrollment privileges after he was caught texting in class. The young man--a football player--had been a disciplinary problem for the entire year he had been enrolled at the school, and prior to his dismissal, he and his parents had been warned that one more violation would result in suspension of his open enrollment privilege.
After a teacher discovered the young man texting, his phone was confiscated and an administrator searched the texting from that day. She pointed to numerous problems in his past, including fights and a claim of suicidal ideations to justify the texting search. The young man filed a lawsuit claiming that the school violated due process in failing to conduct a hearing before eliminating his open enrollment. He also claimed that the texting search was performed without adequate cause and was, therefore, a breach of the Fourth Amendment.
A majority of the Sixth Circuit agreed with the boy that the District Court erred when it granted summary disposition in favor of the school. One judge dissented with regard to the search claim, finding adequate basis for the search in the school's duty to assure the safety of the young man and other students.