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Winnipeg school trustee wants updated rules for student cellphone confiscation

A Winnipeg school board trustee is calling for clearer rules about when public-school students can have their cell phones seized and searched. A Pokemon appears on a smartphone playing Pokemon Go, in Toronto in a July 19, 2016, file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
November 06, 2017 - 1:57 PM

WINNIPEG - A Winnipeg school trustee wants to clarify rules about when and how students can have their cellphones confiscated and searched.

Mark Wasyliw says he wants to set limits and establish a type of bill of rights when it comes to electronics and privacy.

Wasyliw is asking his colleagues at the Winnipeg School Division — one of six school divisions in the city — to update a search policy from 1999.

The policy says school administrators have the right to search a student's personal effects when circumstances warrant.

Wasyliw says times have changed and cellphones contain a lot of personal data that should be protected in most circumstances.

Wasyliw, who is also a defence lawyer, is also seeking updated rules on the use of closed-circuit cameras and locker searches.

"I believe in the right to privacy of our students and our staff, and I believe there are limits to government's ability to sort of monitor people," Wasyliw said Monday.

"The way I view a comprehensive policy on this is basically ... to set limits which aren't currently there and to give direction to our staff about what is permissible and what is impermissible."

Wasyliw's concern was prompted in part when he was contacted by the parent of a student in another school division who said the boy's phone had been seized.

"The day is going to come when a staff member's going to get possession of one of these cellphones and they're going to be tempted to look inside."

The issue has been discussed in other parts of the country. The Limestone District School Board, in and around Kingston, Ont., updated its search policy on mobile phones a few years ago.

"Where information that could pertain to issues of safety and/or criminal activity is believed to exist on cellphones or other mobile devices, the devices may be accessed, the information may be reviewed, and the devices may be confiscated for further investigation by the school and by police authorities," states the policy, posted on the board's website.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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