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School started today. I'm just reading the code of conduct about cell phone usage. It states that on first violation of the policy the device will be confiscated and held until a parent (me) comes to pick it up. Fine by me. It goes on to say that any subsequent violations will result in confiscation until the end of the school year and the school will not even return the device to me, the rightful owner and the child's parent.

For the first infraction, confiscated electronic equipment will only be returned to the student's parent. If an item is confiscated a second time, it will be held until the end of the school year. No Exceptions!

I should note that I'm being asked to sign a paper saying I agree to these terms. I'm not planning on signing this paper. By choosing not to opt in to these terms, does the school still have the right to deny me my property until the end of the school year if it is confiscated a second time?

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    Probably not, but they probably do have the right to expel your daughter if you refuse to follow the policy. As a parent, I'd consider holding the phone a courtesy compared to the alternative. – Patrick87 Aug 11 '17 at 0:30
  • @Patrick87 - don't misunderstand, i'm in no way refusing to follow the policy. i'm simply wondering what my recourse is in the event that they do. – I wrestled a bear once. Aug 11 '17 at 1:01
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    Possibly demanding your phone be returned, and certainly your daughter getting it confiscated a third time, would be a refusal to willingly submit to the policy and the school might decide on alternative disciplinary measures, up to expulsion. Your demanding the phone back early is contrary to the policy, but I think they'd have to give it to you. My point is I wouldn't pull on that thread too hard. Schools can and do expel for unruly or subversive behavior. – Patrick87 Aug 11 '17 at 5:04
  • I'm voting to close this question as it is lacking jurisdiction, and in this case it is highly dependant on jurisdiction and education laws – Trish Aug 23 at 14:33
  • @Trish - Generally, when information is missing from a Stack Exchange question, the SOP is to ask for the user to edit the question - of course you are also free to vote as you choose. Thanks for taking the time to comment. – I wrestled a bear once. Aug 23 at 17:30
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You cannot be compelled to sign a form indicating that you agree to something. However, your lack of agreement does not override a policy that they have authority to set. There is a contractual way that this could work out for them, depending on what exactly the document is.

To be a contract, the parties must agree to the terms voluntarily, and if you do not agree to the terms, there is no contract. A 10 year old child cannot be bound to a contract, anyhow, so the child's consent is legally irrelevant, though strategically a good idea in the sense of alerting the child to their obligation. To be a contract, both sides must offer something that they are not already obligated to provide. What is the school offering?

On the school's side, they might claim "We offer an education", but as a public school, they already have that obligation. Schools have broad authority to impose rules in order to operate, so in lieu of a successful lawsuit that the district overstepped their authority and violated someone's constitutional rights, the school could have a policy prohibiting use of a cell phone in school. Paired with such a policy, they can grant conditional permission, subject to the parent (and symbolically, the child) agreeing to certain terms. Since they are not obligated to allow cell phones at all, they are offering something of value to you, and you have a contract. The cell phone owner could try suing the school for keeping the phone, but the suit would fail because there was a breach of the contract. A strategy probably not worth pursuing is arguing that the confiscation clause is unconscionable (which would void the contract, which entitles the child to have a cell phone at school).

Confiscating the phone is not theft, since the intent is not to permanently deprive the owner of their property (just as it is not theft when you have to leave guns or recording devices at the security desk). If a student were to take a forbidden thing without the owner's authorization (such as a gun, or a phone) and it was then confiscated, the rightful owner might be able to sue the school – as long as their hands are clear (if they had no knowledge that the thing was taken and used in an unauthorized manner). In this case, the parent clearly knows and authorizes.

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    Please note: my daughter has authorization to have her cell phone at school through an entirely separate contract that does not include this "end of year" clause. – I wrestled a bear once. Aug 10 '17 at 23:59
  • I'm confused: is it hers or yours? Are they denying you your property, or denying her your property? Or, by "hers" do yuo simply mean "mine, which I let her use"? Who is the authorization contract with? – user6726 Aug 11 '17 at 0:03
  • My daughter is 10 years old. It's my phone, technically, but she uses it. The contracts we are being asked to sign are requesting both of our signatures. – I wrestled a bear once. Aug 11 '17 at 0:08
  • Wow.. Thank you so much for your time. You are an asset to the community. My interpretation based on your answer is that, since there were two separate contracts, one of which explicitly grants permission to carry the device under conditions that do not involve long term confiscation, and another contract that does include the long term confiscation clause, and I only sign the former, then I would have a good chance of a successful law suit if that were to happen. You've shed a lot of light here, thank you. – I wrestled a bear once. Aug 11 '17 at 2:19

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