I’m sorry that I dropped off earlier. I had to get back to work, then pick up the kids, make dinner, and get them off to their grandparents so that they can go with them for race stuff tomorrow.
First, I want to thank everyone who offered advice. It really reassured me that I was in the right. To answer some questions: I didn’t call the police at the time because I felt it would be overkill, and I left without the phone because I knew I was getting angry and didn’t want to say something I regretted.
I also got a bit irritated that some people chose to provide parenting advice along with legal advice, but I understand that it came from a place of good intentions, so I’m just letting that go.
Anyway, based on some advice I received here, I called the superintendent’s office. A secretary answered, and told me that the Superintendent was unavailable. I left a message asking for a call back, explaining the situation briefly, and explaining that, if I didn’t get the phone back that afternoon when I picked up my kids, I would be contacting the police and reporting the incident as theft.
The superintendent called me back with an hour, and we discussed the situation. I explained my side, that I understood that my son had misbehaved, and confiscating the phone was perfectly reasonable, but that I consulted with my attorney (heh) and that he agreed that refusing to return the phone to me constituted theft. I reiterated my intention to call the police. The superintendent assured me that he would look into it.
When I got to the school, the principal (not the assistant principal from before) was there to speak with me and give me the phone. He apologized for the “miscommunication”, which is bullshit, but I wasn’t going to argue when I’d already gotten what I wanted. I thanked him and collected my kids.
I took the opportunity to explain to my son what he had done wrong and why, but also use the incident as an example of why it’s important to stand up to tinpot dictators of bureaucratic bullshit. Of course, not in those words.
Thanks again for the great advice, everyone! I really appreciate all your insight! And I’m sorry for any mistakes, I’m on mobile at a bar right now.