📱 Do schools have the right to search your child's cell phone?

📱 The standard is much different than for law enforcement

📱 More NJ school districts are tightening cell phone policies

If your child brings a cell phone or other electronic device to school, there is no presumption of privacy.

Schools can and many have adopted policies that allow staff to seize and search cell phones and other devices. They can also adopt rules governing when and how phones can be accessed and used by students.

All school districts in New Jersey have adopted general rules on the use of phones during school hours, but many of those policies have been tightened as cyberbullying and other types of harassment incidents have grown.

Red Bank Regional School District in Monmouth County took the extreme step of banning cell phones from the high school this year and said it was an anti-bullying measure.

Central Regional School district in Ocean County has now adopted a policy that clearly states school officials can search a student's phone "if there is reasonable suspicion that the electronic mobile device contains information that may be pertinent to a school investigation."

The policy was adopted in August and went into effect Sept. 1.

Students in grades 7 through 12 must place their phones in special pouches. High school students must have their phones turned off during class.

Students are also no longer allowed to take their phones with them when they use the restrooms.

More NJ school districts are adopting policies aimed at combating the use of cell phones in bullying. Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
More NJ school districts are adopting policies aimed at combating the use of cell phones in bullying.
Canva/Townsquare Media illustration

Response to bullying at Central Regional High School?

Central Regional officials have not commented publicly on the new policy but it is believed to be in response to the alleged bullying of a student who later died by suicide in 2022.

The family of 14-year-old Adriana Kuch says she was attacked in school by fellow classmates and other students used their phones to record the attack.

Adriana Kuch (Jennifer Ferro, Michael Kuch via Facebook)
Adriana Kuch (Jennifer Ferro, Michael Kuch via Facebook)

Video of the incident spread on social media and Adriana died by suicide just a few days later.

Four students were ultimately charged in the hallway attack.

Different rules for law enforcement

School officials being legally permitted to search a student's phone with the mere suspicion that it contains information "pertinent to an investigation" goes far beyond the standard set for law enforcement.

Police can generally only search your phone if they have a valid search warrant.

police lights
police lights (Michael Förtsch on Unsplash)

Under the Fourth Amendment, individuals are protected from unreasonable search and seizure.

While courts have generally held that police can seize a cell phone in the course of an investigation in order to preserve potential evidence, they will need to demonstrate to a judge why they need to access the data on your phone.

Police can also ask for a very specific warrant that would allow them to read your texts messages or emails without your knowledge, but would have to demonstrate a very specific need and convince a judge that a potential crime has been committed.

Disturbing images from inside Irvington High School

A whistleblowing teacher says Irvington High School is falling apart. In these images taken from the past year, the extent of the deterioration is evident, contributing to an environment that is also beset by growing violence among the student body.

BEEP BEEP BEEP: These are the 13 types of Wireless Emergency Alerts auto-pushed to your phone

The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system allows government officials to immediately and automatically push messages to all cell phones and mobile devices within a specific geographical area. There are a total of 13 types of messages that can currently be sent as a Wireless Emergency Alert. Nine of them are weather-related warnings, including one that is brand new as of August 2021.

NJ school holidays with the biggest buzz

Just which days NJ schools have off remains a reflection of its community.

Some New Jersey towns now have populations that celebrate religious holidays not previously taken as a district-wide day, such as Diwali or Eid.

Other days off are not religious in nature, but are still stirring up controversy or buzz around the state. The following have been making the most news.

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