G.C. v. Owensboro Public Schools
By Michelle Sohn– Edited by Sarah Jeong
G.C. v. Owensboro Public Schools, No. 11-6476, (6th Cir. Mar. 28, 2013)
In a 2-1 decision, the Sixth Circuit reversed the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. The lower court had granted summary judgment for Owensboro, holding that the school’s search of a student’s cell phone did not violate the Fourth Amendment.
The Sixth Circuit held that the school’s search of G.C.’s cell phone was an unreasonable search and seizure. In so holding, the court stated that despite the school’s knowledge of G.C.’s prior behavioral problems, school officials had no specific reason at the time of the search to believe that he was engaging in an unlawful activity. Although using a cell phone in class contravened the school’s policy, “using a cell phone on school grounds [did] not automatically trigger an essentially unlimited right enabling a school official to search any content stored on the phone.” G.C.,slip op. at 13.
EducationWeek provides a thorough analysis of the Fourth Amendment issue. The New York Times editorial board lauded the decision, writing that the Sixth Circuit “correctly ruled” and “wisely interpreted” the scope of a reasonable search as applied to students. (more…)