Are students’ cell phones private property?

Live Free or Die Alliance Facebook followers have mixed feelings


In an age in which technology provides easy access to nearly every kind of information, it presents special challenges for schools that may want to confiscate a child’s cell phone. In Nashua, officials argue that schools possess the right to do whatever is reasonable to provide a safe, educational environment, while the New Hampshire School Boards Association has explicitly warned them to not search students' cell phones.

On July 16, the Live Free or Die Alliance asked its Facebook followers, “Do you think schools should have to get a warrant before looking at a student's cell phone?”

Just 10 percent of respondents indicated that was not necessary. Some 49 percent said a warrant should be required, while a sizable 41 percent — many of whom expressed very strong sentiments — elected to discuss the subject in much broader terms.

In total, the LFDA received 182 citizen responses, including specific comments from 90 individuals supported by 81 concurrences.

The majority of responses from those who expressed support for a warrant were fairly straightforward, as in the case of one respondent who noted, “Of course they need a warrant. Regardless of what the courts say, there must be probable cause affirmed by a judge.”

Representing the minority opinion, however, several cited safety should trump other concerns, while one respondent noted, “The law already tells the kids (and parents) that they have no reasonable expectation of privacy when they are in the care of the school district.”

The most impassioned responses, however, came from those who did not directly answer the question, as a majority of these individuals instead questioned the need for children to bring cell phones into school at all. Others said cell phones should remain in children’s’ lockers. Remarked one respondent, “Cell phones should be left in their lockers. Kids have no need for the cell phones in class.”

Rob Levey is editor of the Live Free or Die Alliance website, The nonprofit, nonpartisan Live Free or Die Alliance, which takes no position on this or any other issue, presents this report not as any sort of scientific poll or survey, but rather a digest of citizen testimony. To learn more about this issue or the LFDA, visit

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