Digital Technology: Safe and responsible use in schools
The following guide is a companion to the Guidelines for the surrender and retention of property and searches.
4. Using instant messaging to organise a fight
Student ‘A’ and his friends have decided to settle their differences with Student ‘B’ and his friends from another school. He has sent text messages to his friends and Student ‘B’ saying they need to meet in a local park to have a fight to sort things out. The Deputy Principal hears a rumour about the proposed fight but is unsure where it will be or when. No one is talking, but he believes the information is on Student ‘A’’s phone.
In this scenario, the Deputy Principal has reasonable grounds to believe that the text messages are being used to create a situation that could:
- endanger student safety i.e. by posing an immediate threat to the physical or emotional safety of a person
- detrimentally affect the learning environment i.e. disrupting the school environment through gossip, innuendo and intrigue.
The Deputy Principal could consider the following:
- It is possible that a criminal offence has already been committed or could be if a fight occurs. If the situation warrants, a decision may be made to contact the Police.
- Text messages can be sent in a range of ways, some may involve the message being automatically deleted by the phone.
- There are no technical methods that can confirm that the rumoured text messages exist, as a search of the device is not permitted.11
How much time should be spent focusing on investigating the text messages? Approaches that seek to break through the ‘bystander effect’ are likely to be more effective. However:
- student ‘A’ can be asked to reveal the text messages. If they refuse they are subject to the school’s disciplinary procedures.
- if text messages have been sent by Student ‘A’ other people may also have a copy. If there are reasonable grounds, a request can be made for them to reveal text messages received from Student ‘A’.