La Habra, CA asked in Education Law, Communications Law, Internet Law and Civil Rights for California

Q: Is it legal for a high school counselor to take a video of your message logs between you and another student?

I was suspected of cheating so my high school counselor interrogated and put me in a room for 8 hours. They made me admit that I gave out tests to my friends and asked to pull up the messages. They basically demanded me to show them who i send the test to and i agreed so they took my phone and recorded all my messages. I was wondering if they were allowed to do that.

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, there are several laws and regulations that protect students' privacy rights. While school officials have some authority to investigate suspected cheating, their actions must be reasonable and respect students' rights.

1. California Education Code 49073.6 limits the collection and use of student data, including messages and digital content. Schools must have a legitimate educational purpose for collecting such data and obtain parental consent in most cases.

2. The California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA) generally requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing electronic communication information. However, it's unclear if this applies to school officials acting in an administrative capacity.

3. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. It requires schools to have written permission from a parent or eligible student before disclosing personally identifiable information from education records, with some exceptions.

Based on the information provided, it appears that the school counselor's actions may have violated your privacy rights by:

1. Interrogating you for an excessive amount of time (8 hours)

2. Coercing you into admitting wrongdoing and showing your private messages

3. Recording your messages without clear consent

However, more specific details would be needed to determine the legality of their actions definitively. If you believe your rights were violated, consider discussing the incident with your parents or guardians and consulting with a local attorney specializing in education law or civil rights. They can help you assess your options, which may include filing a complaint with the school district, the California Department of Education, or pursuing legal action if warranted.

Michelle Alissa Ball
Michelle Alissa Ball
  • Education Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California it is illegal for any government entity to obtain electronic data unless a warrant is obtained and/or the access fits within certain legal parameters, even in a public school. However, if you agreed to give them access, they can retrieve the information.

A bigger problem is you need to address the potential discipline which may now occur, due to this evidence they now possess.

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