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How to become a gang-banger without even trying

Submitted by on Wednesday, 2 September 2009 No Comment

Here’s one that’s going to be interesting in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that said school officials did not have the right to strip-search a teen accused of carrying ibuprofen:

School officials in DeSoto County, Miss., have expelled – yes, expelled, not merely suspended – a 12-year-old after discovering pictures on his cell phone that they say pointed to gang activity.

According to Richard Wade’s mother, Jennifer, the incident started when the boy flipped open his phone to read a text message from his dad.

Football coaches and a principal seized the phone, the DeSoto Times reported.

Well and good. School policy says phones will be confiscated and returned to first offenders after five days, earlier if the parents pay a $25fine. Policy is policy, and the Wades should have been aware of it.

Ay, but the school district now says the policy also allows officials to pilfer through the files on a phone to look for evidence of cheating or engaging in gang- or drug-related activity, according to eschoolnews.com.

That’s wrong, says the American Civil Liberties Union. The organization has filed a lawsuit against the district on the Wades’ behalf.

Wade’s mother says the pictures officials found were benign – shots that included Richard dancing in the bathroom at home and of a classmate holding a BB gun. I must be behind the times – are those standard gear for gang bangers today?

I know Cincinnati Reds apparel is – there’s no other logical explanation for the abundance of merchandise representing a pathetic midwest baseball team in West Coast sporting goods stores.

I have a lot of Reds gear, but only because I made a poor choice in sports allegiances. Do I have to make sure the guys are never photographed in it, in case the images turn up later and get them throw out of school?

No matter what the pictures depicted, the central question is, should school officials have the right to browse through a cell phone or computer they happen to confiscate if there’s no reason to conduct the search?

No, they shouldn’t. It’s called “probable cause,” and it appears to be lacking here, same as in the Redding case.

Wade had never before been accused of gang activity, according to the lawsuit. Yes, he was violating school policy that day, but his attitude when he was caught didn’t indicate that he had anything to hide. He turned the phone over immediately when asked.

Yet, the files were reviewed, the police were called and a boy was expelled. All because a few officials have nothing better to do than browse through a kid’s cell phone.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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