Laptops, Cell Phones Could Be Searched in Schools

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - An opinion, out by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says that public school leaders can seize and search laptops and cell phones if there is reasonable suspicion something is wrong.

Cell phones are popping up in more and more classrooms, and the same is true for laptops.

At the same time -- many are concerned about cyber bullying. One person at the center of that fight is Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He's been to Henrico to talk to students about bullying. Now, he's reminding public school leaders, student laptops and cell phone can be searched, with reasonable suspicion.

That's something teacher Becky Easter is a fan of. "Sometimes it happens but you don't know its happening. That's the bad thing. We're suspicious but we are not sure."

NBC12's legal analyst Steve Benjamin says Becky and other teachers must make sure they have reasonable suspicion before they check those phones or laptops. "The difficulty for teachers will be for teachers to define the line between what they are doing to prohibit misbehavior and what is a legitimate search."

Already some say public school leaders could violate students civil rights by doing this, parent Janet Joyce included. "Schools, they have police officers that they are working, that are familiar with these laws. So, I think if they went to them and they talked to them, they could council them to know what's reasonable and within the law."

The AG's opinion is not a change to the current law. But Benjamin does feel Cuccinelli's opinion earlier this week, could have other benefits.

"If you know what putting on a cell phone or computer could be seized and searched by teachers, students will be less likely to bring those things to school," says Benjamin.

The best thing for teachers or school leaders to do is make sure to get the police involved if they are not sure what to do in regards to this issue.

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