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Schools to be able to search mobile phones under new English laws

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School teachers in England will be given the authority to search mobile phone's without the pupil's consent, under new proposals that make up part of a larger revamp of Education laws in the country. Currently, teachers in schools and colleges have the ability to confiscate mobile phones where necessary, but cannot look at the content they contain.

The new law, to be debated next week by Parliament will give school headmasters the ability to search, and also delete content from the phones. The laws have been proposed as a way of discovering evidence of cyber bullying where people harass others via means of text messages. It is also hoped that the move may clamp down on sharing videos of attacks - so-called "happy slapping" - that take place outside school.

The changes mirror those recently passed in parts of the USA, where laws allowing police to look inside items found on a person were extended to include the contents of mobile phones, when found on a suspect.

However, the civil-rights group, Liberty condemned the move as being "proportionate for terrorism investigations, not breaches of school rules".

The director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, told The BBC that the powers were "excessively intrusive".

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "This is a power not a duty - it will be down teachers to use their professional judgement when to act. Pupils have the right to go to school without being bullied and parents have the right to expect their children to be safe."

The laws apply to England only - Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own laws.

On the web: BBC - Liberty

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Tags: parliament  wales  northern ireland  UK