Mukilteo schools OK rules on cell phones

MUKILTEO — School leaders in Mukilteo now have clearer authority to check student cell phones for bullying or sexually explicit photos or messages.

The Mukilteo School Board approved a new policy Monday night that allows administrators to examine cell phones if they have reason to suspect a problem.

A similar policy, proposed by the Oak Harbor School Board, made headlines last summer when the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington said that it threatened students’ privacy rights.

Since then, the Washington State School Directors Association revised its model policy to make clear that a cell phone may only be searched when school officials have reasonable suspicion that a student is using a cell phone or other communication device in a manner that violates schools rules or law.

The ACLU said in a statement that while the Mukilteo School District’s policy did not adopt all of its recommendations, it made significant strides in protecting privacy.

The Mukilteo board approved the new policy in a 4-0 vote. Board member Anna Rice was not at the meeting. There were no comments made by people attending the meeting.

“A lot of school districts are doing this now,” district spokesman Andy Muntz said. “We aren’t the first one doing it, and we won’t be the last. It just gives us one more tool to try to keep kids safe.”

The policy also allows each individual school to set its own student cell phone policies, Muntz said.

At Mariner High School, use of cell phones isn’t allowed during the school day except in emergencies. At Kamiak, they are allowed at certain times, such as lunch, but not during class, Muntz said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com.

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