Before I worked at CPLEA as a Program Coordinator I was a teacher. The school I taught in had a strict mobile phone policy. If a student was caught with their phone in class they would have it confiscated. The student would then have to pick up their phone at the end of the day from the Principal’s office.
I was talking to a former teaching colleague about an Edmonton school that went a step further and searched the contents of a student’s phone. My friend wondered if this violated the rights of the student.
Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures that everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure (which means that everyone has a right to expect a reasonable amount of privacy). Those that act on the behalf of the government, such as police officers, must act in a fair and reasonable way and usually need a search warrant to do a search.
In schools, the guidelines regarding privacy are a little less strict, as teachers and principals are responsible for student safety. Students are aware that they must comply with school regulations and as a result that they may be subject to searches.
It is sometimes appropriate for teachers and principals to search student property such as backpacks and lockers. Before the search, however, questions such as the following must be considered.
- Is there enough proof to justify the search?
- Is the search reasonable?
- Is the search carried out in a reasonable manner?
CPLEA created a series of lesson plans for schools about the Charter called You Decide: Charter Challenges. The teacher backgrounder that accompanies the lesson plans is an interesting read with more information about Charter rights in schools.