School principals want the ability to search the contents of students' phones and tablets to be able to delete malicious or intimate images in a bid to combat cyber bullying.
New rules for searching school students suspected of carrying harmful items including weapons or drugs are useful but teachers need greater powers to combat cyber bullying, John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said.
Mr Walsh said while they could currently confiscate the devices, they could not search the contents. He said they were losing the small window of opportunity to delete malicious or intimate images of students before images were uploaded to the internet by an offending student.
Education representatives were meeting with the Education Ministry this week to discuss how the rules would affect electronic devices, which could be used for cyber bullying, he said.
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Mr Walsh said most schools were rightly embracing the use of bring-your-own electronic devices to promote student learning, but there was a "dark side".
He said the sooner images could be deleted, the less chance there was of them going viral. At the moment the only option for schools was to call the police in.
Guidelines for teachers to clarify how and when they can search students were issued last week, after new Surrender, Retention and Search legislation came into force a month ago under the Education Amendment Act. They spell out best practice teachers should follow when searching a student they suspect is carrying a harmful item or one which will disrupt learning.
Mr Walsh was keen to see the ministry work with internet providers and internet safety body NetSafe to improve students' safety.
Rotorua Lakes High School principal Bruce Walker agreed it seemed ridiculous schools could confiscate smartphones but not search the contents.
He said cyber bullying was an ongoing issue and a difficult one for schools as often it happened outside school hours.