Teen Wins School Lawsuit Over Naked Cellphone Pics

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

A 17-year-old girl has won a lawsuit against her northeast Pennsylvania high school after her mobile phone was confiscated during class and naked pictures were found on it.

The teen -  who is only being identified by her initials, N.N. - was using her cell phone in class, which is a violation of school policy, when her teacher confiscated it. The principal of the school then went through the phone's text messages, videos and photographs. When he found nude pictures N.N. and her boyfriend had taken, he contacted law enforcement and suspended N.N. from school for three days.

N.N. then sued the school for invasion of privacy. She claimed the images - taken in January 2009 - were for her and her longtime boyfriend's consumption only. The ACLU in Pennsylvania assisted N.N. with her lawsuit - Witold Walczak, the ACLU of PA's Legal Director, served as her lawyer on the case. N.N. settled with the Tunkhannock Area School District: they admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to pay her $33,000. She's also suing the District Attorney's office, but that case has yet to be settled.

The ACLU took on this case because there's very little case law dealing with student's privacy rights surrounding cell phones and their contents. They hoped to set a precedent by fighting for these privacy rights. According to the ACLU website, The ACLU-PA  is now working with the Pennsylvania School Board to come up with guidelines that will help them "better handle situations involving student cell phones and other electronic devices without unlawfully invading student privacy."

N.N. issued a statement after the settlement, saying "I hope this settlement will lead school officials in the future to consider whether they have valid grounds to search students' private text messages, emails and photos."