Virginia Assistant Principal Threatens Suspend Student for Recording
Despite his assistant principal objecting and threatening a 5-day suspension.
The incident took place at Massaponax High School in Fredericksburg, Virginia last month.
Stone was in the assistant principal’s office for an alleged talking violation; in order to have proof of what was said, Stone decided to audio record his conversation with the assistant principal.
“If you record this conversation, or if I find it online, I will give you five days out of school suspension,” said Stephen Hall, who is an assistant principal at the school.
“It is my First Amendment right to video and audio record,” said Stone.
“Not in this building, because I am the authority in this building,” said the assistant principal.
“I set the rules and regulations and I can regulate when you can and can’t use your cell phone”
Unaware to Hall, Stone recorded the conversation anyway, thus invoking and refusing to waive his First Amendment. The recording can be heard here.
Hall noted that if a teacher asks a student to put their phone away, they must.
If a student keeps the phone out, it is a violation of the code of conduct, allowing the teacher to confiscate the phone.
The code of conduct is a makeup of general school rules.
Many aspects of the code of conduct oppose the United States Constitution, which is commonplace throughout the United States. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled that students have less Constitutional rights on campus than they would off-campus.
One federal case out of Mississippi in 2010 even ruled that a school had the right to search a student’s phone after confiscating it.
In 2011, the ACLU published a detailed report arguing that searching students’ phones violates their Constitutional rights.
Respect for the rights of students is critically important. Public schools not only have an obligation to teach their students about reading, writing and arithmetic; as the producers of tomorrow’s leaders and voters, they must also instill in our youth the civic virtues that we as a society hold dear. This is the aim of every government class in every school nationwide.
However, a school cannot teach the Constitution while brushing aside the rights established by that document. A school has an ethical, as well as a legal, obligation not only to teach this material in the classroom, but also to model these principles in every aspect of the educational environment. To do otherwise is to risk teaching our youth that the laws of our nation are not worth the paper on which they are written – niceties to be sacrificed when convenient. A school, moreover, cannot expect students to comply with its rules when school employees violate the constitutional rights of students.
To preserve students’ privacy rights, it is the school’s duty, at a minimum, to circumscribe clearly the extent to which a teacher or administrator can search a student. Unfortunately, this responsibility is not being met in a majority of public school districts, threatening our students’ rights daily through indiscriminate and unrestrained cell phone searches.
For example, if a teacher confiscates a student’s phone, that would be a violation of that student’s Fourth Amendment right. The Fourth Amendment grants citizens the protection against unlawful search and seizure.
Teachers and school officials have no right to confiscate a student’s cell phone. In addition to the aforementioned unlawful Constitutionality of cell phone confiscation, there is also a plethora of private, personal, and financial information on cell phones today, even cell phones owned by teenagers– so a warrant needs to be obtained before a phone can be confiscated.
Hall admitted recording on school grounds is not illegal or immoral. It is rather defiance.
Using a cell phone or having it on while on school property may not be visibly displayed or activated without permission by Hall. If the student does not turn the phone off, that is a violation of the code of conduct.
Evan notes that he is legally permitted to document public officials on public property.
Hall replies, “no you’re not”, the principal even threatens Evan again,
“If you take your cell phone out and start recording, then watch me suspend you, and then watch me make it stick.”
Hall admits that the school is public property. Stone then declared the fact that Virginia is a single party consent state and school law does not trump the United States constitution. Hall went on to say, it is not your legal right to video record.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Hall went as far to imply if you are ever in a situation where the police ask you to stop video recording, you could be arrested if you refuse to stop recording.
PINAC would like to inform Hall that he is wrong. Recording police in public is protected under the First Amendment, as well as video and audio recording on public school grounds.