Earlier this week, there was a complaint issued at school (Massachusetts) from a female student (13 y/o) claiming that my son, (14 y/o) threatened to show a naked picture of her, that she sent to him, to other students. My son was called into the office and his phone was confiscated. His phone is password protected and he was coerced into giving the assistant principle his password by the assistant principle. The assistant principle searched the entire phone, texts, pictures and accounts, then turned the phone over to the police deeming certain things "inappropriate." It's been three days and the police want a meeting but we said, "by advice of council, we would not be attending." We have not heard from them since. This is where it sits for now. My question is, does the school have the right to coerce my son into revealing his password? Wouldn't this be an illegal search?
2 Answers from Attorneys
This is a thorny issue. Public school students do have Constitutional rights but they can be limited in certain situations. This should be handled carefully given the sensitivity of the matter and potential consequences. I handle these kinds of cases. Feel free to contact me directly for a free consultation.
4th amendment only applies to the government. You would have to show the school is a state actor. Also, people can waive that right and allow the search so it would also likely depend on what threats were made. Ultimately, a lawyer would want to file a motion to suppress.