Court Gives School Officials Immunity in Suit Over Search of Student’s Cell Phone

March 13, 2019

The Eleventh Circuit has issued a decision in Jackson v. McCurry. A student's family filed the case after school officials searched her cell phone without probable cause. The appeals court ruled against the the student because the law limiting searches of student cell phones was not "clearly established." EPIC filed an amicus brief, arguing that searches of student phones should be "limited to those circumstances when it is strictly necessary" after the Supreme Court's decision in Riley v. California. EPIC wrote that "most teenagers today could not survive without a cellphone." The court recognized the need to limit school searches of cell phones, noting that "the reasoning of Riley treats cellphone searches as especially intrusive in comparison to searches incident to arrest of personal property" and that "a search of a student's cellphone might require a more compelling justification than that required to search a student's other personal effects." However, the court refused to hold that this right was "clearly established." EPIC routinely files amicus briefs in cases raising new privacy issues. EPIC has also long advocated for greater student privacy protections, including a Student Privacy Bill of Rights.

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