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What can a teacher do if the school wants to track their phone?

On Behalf of | Aug 4, 2022 | Employment Law |

Being a teacher is a very demanding profession. You have to control dozens of children at one time, keep track of their academic and social performance and engage them enough that they actually want to learn from you. You may spend hours every week grading papers and checking spelling tests, and you likely spend your own money on supplies for your classroom.

The school district that employs you should provide you with support, but some teachers feel like their relationship with the district is more adversarial. For example, some school districts have recently expressed an interest in tracking and recording their teachers.

The school might want all of the staff members to install certain software on school-provided laptops or phones or cameras in halls and classrooms throughout the school. Is it legal for your employer to track you or subject you to surveillance while you are at work?

There are limits to your expectation of privacy

A teacher generally has the same right to a basic expectation of privacy as any other employee. The classroom where they work is not the same thing as a private office. It is a public facility that other people will access, so there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in the classroom or while on school grounds. It is perfectly legal for the school to use tracking technology on its campus, including surveillance cameras.

However, tracking technology on individual electronic devices is more of a legal gray area. The school generally has the right to do what it wants with the devices it provides to you. They can install keystroke tracking software, GPS tracking software and even programs that let the IT department take over the device remotely.

Still, they typically cannot mandate that you carry those devices at all times when you are not at work, nor can the school district require that you install spyware and similar programs on the devices that you personally own.