Events like Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine have educators thinking about how to stop these events from occurring in the future. One such solution that should be incorporated into every school district’s emergency plan is Threat Assessments. But doing it by the book may just be a violation of students civil rights.
Once a potential threat has been identified, then the threat needs to be assessed. Many school district turn to private investigators to conduct threat assessments. Not just for violence, but even for residency checks and accusations of privacy violations abound (looking thru student’s bureau drawers).
When it comes to violence looking thru bureau drawers, computer files and parent’s closets may be acceptable. I reiterate “may”. It is certainly not acceptable to establish residency.
Books Are Off Limits
In 2012, SB602 introduced the Reader Privacy Act (1798.90 of the California Civil Code) . The act aligned privacy protections for users who purchase, browse, borrow, etc… books from Book Services with those that already exist for users of public libraries. This means that obtaining information about what someone has read or purchased from a company like Amazon is now off limits.
Court Order Required
If you want to know what someone has read, borrowed, browsed, etc… you will need a court order to obtain it. Obtaining the information without the order is a violation of a person’s civil rights and may subject your organization to adverse liability.
As schools are trying to assess the threats for violence, many will turn to using private investigators to help conduct the assessment. Many times these PI’s are not up to speed on the regulations that govern their searches and seizures of information.
Schools should be aware of the new legislation and educate their threat assessors that books, whether physical or electronic, are off limits unless they have a court order to obtain the information.