PA school board pays $33K settlement for searching kid’s phone and referring seminude self-portraits to DA for criminal prosecution

Cory Doctorow

Pennsylvania’s Tunkhannock Area School District has settled a lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of NN, a student whose mobile phone was searched by her principal. The principal dug through several screens’ worth of menus to discover some partial nude photos of NN, as well as a blurry full nude that NN had intended for her long-term boyfriend. This may or may not have been advisable, but I’m with NN and the ACLU: it wasn’t the principal’s place to go digging through her phone for the pix. And the principal certainly shouldn’t have done what he did next: turn the photos over to the DA’s office for criminal prosecution (you see, the principal believed that in taking pictures of herself, a minor, NN became a child pornographer).
The school district settled for $33K (which sounds like the ACLU’s legal fees), and another suit against the DA remains ongoing. As a result of the settlement, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association is developing guidelines for searching students’ phones.