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Public School Law Dr. William Allan Kritsonis
Transcript of Student Searches
- 1. Are They Legal in Public Schools? William Allan Kritsonis, PhD
- "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...."
- This was the amendment that protected people from unreasonable search and seizures, including public school students.
- T.L.O . and a friend were accused of violating school rules by smoking cigarettes in a school lavatory, the latter, who admitted to smoking, was not brought to the office for a search. The Supreme Court of New Jersey decreed that the search of T.L.O.'s purse violated the Fourth Amendment. On appeal, in New Jersey v. T.L.O. , the Supreme Court reversed in favor of the State of New Jersey (Russo).
- This was the case that laid the basic principles for student searches.
- School officials must establish reasonable cause for believing that the student is violating or has violated a student rule or a law.
- They must make sure that the search conducted is reasonable in scope in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the offense.
- A school official may search the person of a student if the school official has reasonable grounds to believe that the student is in possession of contraband.
- Search of the person shall be limited to the student's pockets, any object in the student's possession such as a purse, briefcase or backpack, and/or a "pat down" of the exterior of the student's clothing.
- Searches of the person shall be conducted out of the presence of other students and as privately as possible. At least one, but not more than three additional persons of the same sex as the student being searched shall witness but not participate in the search.
- The parent/guardian of any student searched shall be notified of the search as soon as reasonably possible.
- A locker search is simply the act of opening a locker and looking through its contents. Depending on the state, administration may choose to search one, several or all lockers. The search may begin when a drug dog indicates that there may be some contraband such as drugs in the locker, when a student reports concern of what another student may have in his locker, or when the administration calls for a random search .
- Sniffer dogs can be used if they are sufficiently reliable to indicate reasonable suspicion that contraband is present.
- Horton v. Goose Creek the court established that dogs could sniff students' cars and lockers, but could not sniff the students themselves for drugs.
- In 1978 the Goose Creek Independent School District in Texas brought in drug-sniffing dogs in an attempt to deal with a rampant drug and alcohol problem. The dogs were trained to detect more than 60 different controlled and over-the-counter substances. On an unannounced and random basis, dogs were taken to all of the schools in the district to sniff the students' lockers and cars and were brought into the classrooms to sniff the students themselves. If a dog indicated that a car or locker had an illegal substance, the student was required to open the locker or vehicle for a search. If the dog indicated a student was carrying an illegal substance, he or she was brought into the school office to be searched.
- Due to the personal intrusiveness of a drug test it is looked upon as a search.
- Students athletes are subject to random drug tests.
- Vernonia School District v. Acton was the case law that laid down the guidelines for drug testing.
- The Student Activities Drug Testing Policy implemented by Pottawatomie County School District requires all students who participate in competitive extracurricular activities to submit to drug testing. This policy reasonably serves the school district's important interest in detecting and preventing drug use among its students, therefore the court held it as constitutional.
- These devices are permissible in schools for student searches.
- These devices are also used doing extra-curricular activities.
- Students and parents must be notified that random student searches will occur.
- Student searches are permissible as long as students Fourth Amendment rights are not violated.
- Parents and students should be aware of random searches through the student code of conduct.
- School officials have a responsibility to keep safe and secure environments for students and falculty.