NSBA weighs in on texting privacy case

The National School Boards Association has filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in City of Ontario v. Quon. The National Association of Secondary School Principals and the California School Boards Association have joined in the filing. This case, being heard this spring by the Supreme Court, raises important issues about the ability of school districts to access employees' work-related communications, both to ensure student safety and maintain smooth operations.

The case will determine whether public officials violated a police officer's Fourth Amendment right to privacy when they searched text messages on his pager. The city's official policy gives employees no right to privacy but a police supervisor allowed some personal use of the devices.

In its amicus brief, NSBA argues that the "operational realities of the workplace" make it difficult for school district employers to ensure that supervisors are fully enforcing existing policies. "Moreover," the brief states, "given the mission of school districts to educate students in a safe environment, school districts need to be able to search electronic devices particularly where employee misconduct and student safety is at issue as quickly as possible without having to first get a criminal warrant."

NSBA General Counsel, Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., said, "Many school district employees use district e-mail or other modes of electronic communication routinely to conduct school business. The Court should preserve the ability of school districts to implement policies that limit employee expectations of privacy when using district technology and require they only be used for work-related matters. When it comes to child safety, a school has a strong interest in ensuring employees are abiding by school policies."