Digital technology: Safe and responsible use in schools

This guide provides principals and teachers with the information to act confidently and in the best interests of students with regard to digital technology. 

5. Recording an incident in the classroom

A teacher had an unruly class on Monday where there was a strong exchange between him and some students, this included a student swearing and storming out of class. The teacher discovered that a student recorded this incident on his smartphone and intends to upload the video to the web as a joke. The teacher wants the phone confiscated and the content deleted as he considers it would be humiliating and an invasion of privacy for all concerned.

  • Incident response
    • Has there been an infringement of the Privacy Act 2020?

      Individual students are subject to the Privacy Act 2020 (the Act) as it applies to “any person or body of persons, whether corporate or unincorporated”.

      In relation to the Act, incidents involving digital information stored on a smartphone or other mobile device should be considered on a case-by-case basis. There is a range of factors to consider such as the applicable privacy principles and any exceptions to the principles or the Act itself. The general advice is to refer to the board of trustees’ privacy policy in relation to the Act and seek specialist advice if required.

      Again, in relation to this specific case the board of trustees’ privacy policy should guide the process that the school follows.

  • What other options are open to the school?
    • The threatened action of publishing the video online, or otherwise sharing the recording, has the potential to:

      • detrimentally affect the learning environment i.e. disrupting the school environment through gossip, innuendo and intrigue
      • endanger teacher safety i.e. be harmful by posing an immediate threat to the emotional safety of a person.

      This gives the school the basis to act in this case. The advice on deletion provided in this guide applies in this case.