A Whanganui High School student says she was shocked to discover her confiscated phone was used by staff to take a "selfie-style" photo while it was out of her possession.
The student, who did not want to be named, accepted her phone should have been confiscated but when it was returned to her it had a photo of two teachers.
"My phone was buzzing because messages were coming through so the teacher took it out of the room so it wouldn't disrupt the class," the student said.
"The teacher puts phones in a Click-Clack container on her desk."
The Whanganui High School student said the phone was returned to her at the end of the class.
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"When I got the phone back, I was really shocked to find a photo of two teachers I don't know and I could see from the background that they were in another part of the school."
The student spoke to a deputy principal who took her to speak with principal Martin McAllen.
"Mr McAllen suggested that the photo may have been taken accidentally," the student said.
"I don't know how he would think that when they obviously knew they were being photographed."
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McAllen asked the student if she would be willing to meet with the teachers and hear their verbal apologies.
"I said I didn't want that because I don't know the teachers and I was uncomfortable with the idea."
The student said she would have welcomed a written apology which she has not received since the incident six weeks ago.
Her mother is also disappointed she has had no contact from the principal.
"Fortunately my daughter and I communicate well and she tells me things, otherwise I wouldn't know about it," she said.
McAllen told the Chronicle he now understood the photo was taken deliberately but said the teachers involved believed the phone belonged to their colleague.
"I understand that the phone was buzzing loudly in the classroom so the teacher moved it to a teachers' only workroom area where she thought it would be safe.
"The two staff members involved believed the phone belonged to another teacher and they said they took the photo to cheer her up."
The teachers involved have provided statements about what happened to McAllen and expressed their willingness to apologise to the student in person, he said.
"It has not been possible because of people's schedules and the student hasn't been at school very often since it happened," McAllen said.
"I think it would be far better if we can have a face-to-face meeting so no one needs to feel uncomfortable when they see each other at school."
The student said the misuse of her phone felt like a breach of trust and she believed the matter had not been taken seriously.
"I know there would be really serious consequences if a student did something like that with a teacher's phone," she said.
Asked if any new measures had been put in place around the confiscation of students' cell phones since the incident, McAllen said items would normally stay in the possession of the class teacher.
"The student would not turn the phone off so the teacher put it somewhere where she thought it would be safe," he said.
McAllen said Whanganui High School had "flexible" practices around students' phone use.
"Some parents don't want their children using phones at school so they are handed in at the office on arrival and collected at the end of the day.
"Then there are the situations where phones are confiscated because a student has breached the rules and they are handed back to the student at the end of the class."
Charles Mabbett, senior communications adviser for the office of the Privacy Commissioner, said it was important to try and resolve privacy concerns with the agency involved.
"School privacy regulations are subject to the provisions of the Education Act," he said.
"If a privacy dispute remains unresolved a complaint can be made to the Privacy Commissioner."