Question: Electronic devices can be useful for learning, but my students constantly use their devices for other purposes during class. Can I confiscate the devices, and what are the ramifications if I do?
Answer: Personal electronic devices (PEDs) have definitely made their way into classrooms, and although teachers recognize that PEDs can be excellent teaching and learning tools, there is an appropriate time and place for their use.
Before confiscating a student’s PED, you are advised to consult with your principal and review school and district policy on electronic devices in the school and classroom. Do not act outside of policy. If you have authority to seize a PED, be sure to adhere to the policy’s parameters. Once you’ve appropriated the PED, it is now in your possession (this applies to anything that you confiscate); however, the device still belongs to the student. Secure the PED in a safe location. If it is lost while in your possession, you could be responsible for replacing it. You should also have a clear return protocol (for example, returning confiscated PEDs to the parent).
Do not, under any circumstances, search confiscated devices. If you suspect a student is engaging in illegal activity on a device, turn the PED over to your principal who, in following policy, will (likely) turn the PED over to police.
The ATA’s Member Services (MS) staff can provide expert advice on the legal aspects of technology use. You are encouraged to contact MS about legal issues related to the use of technology.
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (firstname.lastname@example.org).