The American Civil Liberties Union has objected to a proposed new policy in a Washington state school system that would let school officials seize students’ cell phones if they have probable cause, reports the Seattle Times. Bullying has taken a technological turn, and officials at Oak Harbor School District are looking for ways to control it. Under a proposed new policy, that might mean seizing students’ phones with probable cause. But do schools have that right? The ACLU of Washington says no. “One shouldn’t have to give up the right to privacy to have the other right of public education,” said Brian Alseth, director of the group’s Technology and Liberty project, which aims to protect technological rights and prevent governmental abuse. The organization objected to the proposed policy in a letter to the district superintendent; it has offered proposed changes, too. The School Board discussed the policy at its Aug. 30 meeting. Superintendent Rick Schulte said the district wouldn’t implement it until at least Sept. 13. He said the board will take that time to consider advice such as the ACLU’s. The proposed policy would fulfill a state requirement that bullying policies be updated by 2011, he said. Alseth said his main concern is that school officials would have “unfettered access” to students’ phones. If principals were searching a phone for harassing messages, they might, for example, learn about a pregnancy or a student’s politics—information that should be private. But Schulte said that although the policy would allow district officials to seize cell phones without permission, they’d avoid doing so…

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