Winnipeg School Division trustee proposes revising school board smartphone search and seizure policy

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A Winnipeg School Division (WSD) trustee has proposed updating the school board’s policy on searching and seizing student smartphones.

The proposition, brought forth by WSD trustee Mark Wasyliw, is part of a broad spectrum update to the WSD’s search and seizure policy, that also includes revisions to locker searches, as well as body and personal property searches.

“There has been significant and rapid technological changes that have impacted our schools,” reads an excerpt from the proposal document.

“Once cell phones were considered luxuries and now they are must-have personal items, which an overwhelming number of students and staff bring into our schools each and everyday…we have no policy that would govern when a cellphone may be seized by a staff member and what if any searches of the contents of the cellphone would be permissible by our staff.”

In an interview with CBC News, Wasyliw explained that current WSD policy does not enumerate any restrictions on students handing over or unlocking their smartphones for inspection.

“Right now, you can have, theoretically, an administrator take a phone, search the phone, search the contents of that phone,” said Wasyliw, to CBC News. “They could force a student to give up a password. All those things could happen and there’s no policy in place that would tell them that what they are doing is not right.”

Wasyliw also argued that new policy needs to dictate how schools should cooperate with police in the event of student-related investigations.

It’s important to point out that even Canada’s federal-level policy isn’t terribly clear on smartphone policy.

The WSD will be voting on Wasyliw’s proposal on November 20th, 2017.

Source: CBC News

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Author: Sameer Chhabra