The Fine Print – Code of Conduct
My daughter got her first phone, I have explained being responsible with technology and what that looks like. However, I worry about her receiving something that is inappropriate or being accused of having something inappropriate on her phone at school. She can control what she sends, but not what she receives. How do I prepare her for the school’s right to keep all the students safe without her completely losing all privacy rights? We as her parents own the phone and pay for it, if that makes a difference. ” – Father of a Good Kid
Charlotte Mecklenburg County Schools has a comprehensive Student Code of Conduct which lists a student’s rights and responsibilities, the responsibilities of administrators and teachers, as well as the consequences for violating the Code of Conduct.
According to the Code of Conduct, students have the right to have personal possessions remain private, unless school staff have reason to believe that a student is in possession of items prohibited by the Code of Student Conduct, other school policy, or the law. Students also have the right to have their personal property respected. Additionally, students have the responsibility to keep prohibited items away from school and school activities and to respect the personal privacy of others.
The school administration has the right to conduct a search of a student or his/her possessions. The rule states that a student must cooperate and not obstruct the search. However, the search must be reasonable in scope and the administration must have a reasonable suspicion that the student may be in possession of a weapon, illegal substance or other items prohibited by or used in violation of law or the Code of Student Conduct such as profane, obscene, or pornographic material.
If your child finds him or herself in an administrator’s office for questioning or their personal belongings subject to a search, he/ she does have the ability to ask for a parent to be present for either questioning or a search. Educating your child on how to evaluate the request to be questioned or his/ her personal property searched is an important component of this evaluation. If the request is for something to be searched due to an immediate threat to safety and life, the answer is obvious. The answer is “yes” and “please call my parents while we talk/ you search”. What is less obvious, but more frequently the reason for a search or questioning is student altercations or interactions witnessed by your child or possession of prohibited items such as obscene materials. This is something you should be present for if at all possible.
It is important for your student to understand that, by asking for a parent to be present, they are not obstructing or interfering with a search, they are simply asking for a parent and/or guardian to be present during a search or questioning.
Your child should be respectful, but direct when they interact with administrators by politely saying: “I can talk to you, but first you have to contact my parent(s). I am required to have one of them here.” Your child also cannot physically obstruct an administrator from searching their possessions, but they do have the ability to advocate for themselves by requesting to have a parent present for the search. Some school administrators may consider the request by a student to have a parent present to be insubordination and a violation of Rule 33 of the Student Code of Conduct; generally, most will not although they may be unhappy about it. The appearance of insubordination by a student is a risk as a parent of a student in school, and one I recommend you be willing to take. A parent’s job is to advocate for their child, which means being present when an authority figure determines that a search or questioning should be performed on school grounds of your child and/or her belongings.
A good practice would be for the parent to go into the administrator early in the school year, introduce yourself and make them aware that if there is ever a disciplinary or search issue with your child that you must be contacted first.
Chances are your student will have a good, productive and uneventful school year, but it is always good to educate out children on how they can advocate for themselves.
Jennifer L. Fleet, Esq. practices domestic law and appellate law at Weaver | Budd, Attorneys at Law. To schedule a consultation with her, please call (704) 841-0760. The information contained in this article is general in nature and not to be taken as legal advice, nor to establish an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Jennifer L. Fleet or Weaver | Budd, Attorneys at Law.
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