Case and Law Review - Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment is concerned with privacy along with search and seizure restrictions that apply in public schools, but, the Courts give school officials and police more flexibility to conduct searches in school. In this case and law review you will learn about two different cases where Courts balance a student’s privacy rights against the school’s interest in safety and student discipline. This means that students often have less protection against what they might perceive as unreasonable searches and seizures at school, than in other places. The Fifth Amendment is concerned with fundamental fairness. This means that school officials cannot hold or punish a student without stating the reason and providing an opportunity to contest the charges.

In the case of New Jersey v. T.L.O., a New Jersey high school student was accused of violating school rules by smoking in the bathroom, leading an assistant principal to search her purse for cigarettes. The vice principal found marijuana and other items that made it look like the student was dealing the drug. The student tried to have the evidence from her purse covered up. Her argument was that mere possession of cigarettes was not a violation of school rules; therefore, a desire for evidence of smoking in the restroom did not justify the search. Although the court concluded that the Fourth Amendment did apply to searches carried out by school officials, it held that "a school official may properly conduct a search of a student's person if the official has a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is in the process of being committed, or reasonable cause to believe that the search is necessary to maintain school discipline or enforce school policies ("New jersey v.," 1985)." Here the Court recognized two things. First, it reaffirmed the role of the school in loco parentis, but it also recognized that school officials are representatives of the State. The Supreme Court decided that the search did not violate the constitution in which learning can take place. The U.S. Supreme Court held that a school principal could search a student's purse without probable cause or a warrant and established more lenient standards for reasonableness in school searches.

Under a State of Ohio education statute, a public school principal may suspend a student for misconduct for up to ten days without a hearing if he notifies the student’s parents within twenty-four hours and gives reasons for his action. In the Goss v. Lopez case, nine students at two high schools and one junior high school in Columbus, Ohio, were given 10-day suspensions from school. The school principals did not hold hearings for the affected students before ordering the suspensions. The principals' actions were challenged, and a federal court found that the students' rights had been violated. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court. One question that comes to my mind is did the imposition of the suspensions without preliminary hearings violate the students' Due Process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment? The answer would be yes. The Court held that because Ohio had chosen to extend the right to an education to its citizens, it could not withdraw that right "on grounds of misconduct absent fundamentally fair procedures to determine whether the misconduct had occurred ("Goss v. lopez," 1975)." The Court held that Ohio was constrained to recognize students' entitlements to education as property interests protected by the Due Process Clause that could not be taken away without minimum procedures required by the Clause. The Court found that students facing suspension should at a minimum be given notice and given the right to some kind of hearing. Within the American criminal justice system, an individual’s freedoms are protected by the exact same government which, sometimes, looks to deprive that individual of those freedoms. This is part of the long battle...
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