Local attorney talks privacy issues with Sumter County High School’s new cellphone policy

According to Sumter County High School, the first offense results in an out-of-school suspension with a mandatory parent conference before returning to school.
Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 7:59 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

AMERICUS, Ga. (WALB) - A new cell phone policy is now in effect at Sumter County High School.

According to the school, the policy allows school officials to search confiscated electronic devices and cell phones.

The new cell phone policy went into effect on Monday, WALB went to the high school to get clarification on the policy, but officials referred us to the Board of Education.

The policy at the school states that “Limited electronic device use will be allowed at school in designated areas.” It goes on to say that “Any material stored or saved on confiscated electronic devices/cell phones may be searched by school officials.”

According to Attorney Daryl Morton, there has to be a reasonable suspicion that the student did something wrong in order for their phones to get searched.

“When it comes to searching a cell phone, generally the cell phone has to be connected in some reasonable way to the thing they did wrong,” Morton said. “There has to be some reasonable basis for getting into the cell phone as it relates to the misconduct that you’ve searched the child for in the first place.”

Based on the legal findings about the policy, WALB went to the Sumter County Board of Education but, no one would give a response.

However, WALB spoke to a parent about the new policy, and she says she thinks the policy is an invasion of privacy.

“Well, you’re not going to go through my child’s phone if you take it from her at the school or anything,” Kenyatta, a parent, said. “You can call me and let me come up there and I’ll see what’s going on with it and we can go about it that way. But as far as you taking something that you didn’t pay for, I wouldn’t allow that to happen with my child.”

Parents also took to Facebook to express their concerns about the new policy.

“That’s an invasion of privacy to search a phone and you don’t pay the bill,” Lakisha Merritt, a Facebook commenter, said.

“I understand no phones in class but going through their phones after confiscation is way out of bounds,” Ki Symone, a Facebook commenter, said.

According to Sumter County High School, any violation of the new policy can result in out-of-school suspension from the first offense and can be as extensive as 10 days of out-of-school suspension with mandatory parent conferences and a referral to a tribunal.