Administrator's Guide to Conducting Legal Searches on School Campuses

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STUDENT SEARCHES
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A N A D M I N I S T R A T O R ' S GUIDE TO CONDUCTING LEGAL SEARCHES ON S C H O O L C A M P U S E S

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NATIONAL SCHOOL SAFETY CENTER
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STUDENT SEARCHES AND THE LAW

Nation~ School Safety Center Pepperdine University M ~ u , CA 90265 805/373-9977 © 1995

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

National School Safety Center Pepperdine University Malibu, California 90263

Executive Editor: Ronald D. Stephens Contributing Editors: June Lane Arnette, Sue Ann Meador Project Author: George Butterfield Contributing Author: Bernard James Typographer: Kristene Kenney The National School Safety Center promotes school safety, improved discipline, increased student attendance, and the prevention of drug trafficking and abuse in schools throughout the United States. NSSC is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and Pepperdine University. As a national clearinghouse, the Center communicates the latest trends and effective programs in school safety to educators, law enforcers, the legal community, government officials, the media and the public. Center activities include producing print and multimedia information materials for practitioners; creating public service advertisements to promote public awareness; providing technical assistance; developing legal and legislative resources; and presenting training conferences. Prepared under Grant #85-MU-CX-0003 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Lois Brown William Modzeleski, Program Manager, OJJDP Director of Drug Planning U.S. Department of Justice U.S. Department of Education Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Education or Pepperdine University. Neither NSSC nor any of its employees makes any warranty, express or implied, nor assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product or process described herein.

© 1995, National School Safety Center Ronald D. Stephens, Executive Director June Lane Amette, Communications Director Bernard James, Special Counsel Jane M. Grady, Business Manager

STUDENT SEARCHES AND THE LAW With the alarming increase of drugs and weapons on American school campuses, teachers, administrators and other school officials have, of necessity, stepped up their efforts to search lockers, other school property and, sometimes, students themselves. Disputed searches are regularly challenged in state courts, and a few, most notably the 1985 landmark case of N e w Jersey v. T.L.O., I have been settled by the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite court-imposed safeguards on Students' constitutional rights, schools still have greater leeway in conducting searches than do police officers. In many cases, law enforcement officers must have a warrant and meet a "probable cause" standard to conduct a search. The Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unlawful and unreasonable searches, originally set forth these two requirements. School officials, however, have successfully demonstrated to the courts that such a stringent requirement would seriously impair the ability to maintain discipline and a safe school environment. Because of this, school officials are not required to obtain a warrant and are only obligated to meet a "reasonable suspicion" standard.

Students' rights
Before T.L.O., the courts were divided on whether students at school had any Fourth Amendment rights. The T.L.O. Court, following the lead of Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Community Sch. Dist., 2 held that students remain free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Tinker Court, hearing a...
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