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School Read Messages on Student’s Cell Phone

OWENSBORO, Ky. (CN) - Owensboro High School violated the Constitution by confiscating a student's cell phone after it slipped from his pocket during class, and expelling him because of the text messages that school officials read on it, the student's family claims in Federal Court.

The student, identified only as G.C., says his teacher confiscated his phone "pursuant to school policy," on Sept. 2. The teacher, the principal and two assistant principals then performed a "warrantless and illegal search" by reading the text messages on the phone, the family says.

The family says G.C. was expelled "as a result of the warrantless and illegal search."

The family says they were not allowed to appeal the expulsion, which was for more than 10 days.

It is "facially unconstitutional" for school administrators to read the text messages, to themselves or to others, as it gives them "unlimited discretion" with "no limits" to searching of private property, the complaint states.

The family seeks injunctive relief and unspecified damages for violations of the federal and state constitutions.

Named as defendants are Owensboro Public Schools, Superintendent Larry Vick, Owensboro H.S. Principal Anita Burnette, and assistant principals Melissa Brown and Christina Smith.

The family is represented by Edward Dove of Lexington.


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