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School board reviews search and seizure policy

Constantly changing technology and the use of personal devices in classrooms makes it difficult to achieve clear language in policies and procedures.

That was the crux of an hour and a half-long discussion between members of the Hillsboro School Board and the district’s legal counsel, Brian Hungerford, during a board work session Tuesday.

The discussion about updating the district’s search and seizure policy was not “to rehash any events that happened at any particular school,” superintendent Mike Scott told the board members.

Board member Glenn Miller requested a review of the district’s search and seizure policy after an incident at Brown Middle School last November, in which the arrest of an eighth-grader sparked a right-to-privacy furor after cell phones belonging to students — who recorded the teenager’s outburst — were confiscated by district staff.

“I’d like to clarify the edges of what’s legal” in search and seizure of cell phones and the data they contain, Miller said.

Hungerford emphasized that courts haven’t given a clear ruling of what a reasonable scope for search and seizure is when dealing with tech devices in the school setting.

Miller pushed for putting specific language in the policy regarding the search and seizure of students’ personal tech devices.

Board member Erik Seligman said he believed data should never be removed from a student’s phone by school personnel.

“We need to err on the side of not deleting evidence,” Seligman said.

The board generally agreed that questions on the appropriate use of technology devices will be an ongoing and fluid discussion as the use of these devices are allowed more in the classroom.

“There is nothing specific (in the policy) about electronic data,” Seligman said. “There needs to be a clause.”

Hungerford will make minor changes to some language in the district search and seizure policy for the board to review later this year.

In a separate discussion, board members unanimously agreed administrative staff should begin looking into the possibility of some of the district’s rural elementary schools — Groner, West Union, Farmington View and North Plains — being opened to kids in kindergarten through eighth grades. All elementary schools in the district are currently K-6.

Scott said input he received from community members during a series of “coffee chats” last fall indicated there is renewed interest in having K-8 schools.

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