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Can a School Take My Kid's Cell Phone?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Many schools have cell phone policies in place to protect the learning environment. As a result, students who find themselves violating cell phone policies might find their cell phones confiscated. Legally speaking, can schools take cell phones from students?

They probably can, with some limitations.

Most school districts and schools are given the power to create certain school policies regarding discipline and student conduct.

With the growing use of technology, cell phones have become an increasingly important part of school policy.

Many schools across the nation have taken to banning or limiting the use of cell phones on campus by students. And, students who violate these policies often have their cell phones confiscated.

School policies vary. Some will confiscate a student's cell phone for the day, allowing the student to pick up the phone before they return home. Others will keep the phone for a week or two.

Keep in mind that just because a school takes away your cell phone does not mean they have committed the offense of larceny or theft. In order to be guilty of larceny or theft, the school must intend to permanently deprive you of your property. If they simply intend to hold your cell phone for a week and then return it to you, they aren't guilty of larceny.

But, can they confiscate it for a short period of time? It seems like taking a student's cell phone would likely be valid discipline for schools to use.

Of course, school cell phone policies likely do have limitations. Can schools take cell phones from students? Probably, but they need to make sure they're not running afoul of a student's rights. Taking a student's cell phone and then going through their calls and text messages may violate a student's civil rights depending on the situation.

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