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Teacher allegedly breaks into student's phone

A UK teacher allegedly takes drastic action to prove that a student is in an "inappropriate relationship."

The school at the center of the allegations. Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Educators aren't always comfortable with students having cell phones. While some might argue phones are a classroom distraction, other teachers face a different problem with mobile devices. It seems there's too much temptation hidden within them to discover everything about their students.

An incident in the UK offers a particularly disturbing aspect to what might be possible if a student's cell phone falls into the hands of a teacher.

As the Telegraph reported on Sunday, a 16-year-old girl at the Park View School in my home town of Birmingham had her phone allegedly confiscated by a teacher. What happened next defies belief. According to two staff members who spoke to the Telegraph, the girl's teacher allegedly took the phone to a store in order to break the passcode and open the phone. The phone's contents were then examined by the school, said the Telegraph.

What the school allegedly found were texts and images indicating that the girl -- who was of the age of consent -- was in a relationship with a boy at school. Next, this allegedly stolen evidence was made the pretext to suspend the girl and the boy for being in a "forbidden" relationship, reported the Telegraph. The girl, though, allegedly suffered the longer punishment.

Park View School is accused of being part of the so-called "Trojan Horse" tactic, in which radical Muslims are elected to the boards of nominally secular schools and begin to impose strict religious standards. Tahir Alam, the chairman of the school's board of governors, has reportedly written that "girlfriend/boyfriend relationships . . . are not acceptable practices according to Islamic teaching."

However, in response to the Trojan Horse allegations, the school last week issued a statement that said the school "is not run as a faith school." It also blamed former teachers for stirring trouble.

The girl's mother told the Telegraph that she reported the incident to the police. The school has confirmed that the police and the city's child safeguarding service are currently investigating.

This isn't the first time that a student's cell phone has caused a school to apparently overreact.

Last year, staff at a Canadian high school ordered 28 students to remove their clothes because one was suspected of having taken a cell phone into an exam room.

With many definitions of privacy being eroded by the day, at what point will the law decide that your cell phone is simply your own property and, indeed, an extension of your self?

Last month, the US Supreme Court heard a case in which it was being asked to decide whether it was legal for police to search a cell phone during an arrest without a warrant. Clearly, some of those in authority seem to think that cell phones are nothing more than evidence to be grabbed.

Perhaps, at some point, the law might think differently.