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Case Study Presentation. Search & Seizure on School Premises By Tony Hastings EDAD 620. Scenario:.

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case study presentation

Case Study Presentation

Search & Seizure on School Premises


Tony Hastings

EDAD 620


Bruce Johnson is a first year principal at Atwood Middle school in an urban district. One of his security guards spotted a student ducking behind a parked automobile in the campus parking lot. She was ordered to empty her purse, which contained several readmittance slips that she should not have in her possession. The security officer telephoned Johnson and verbally informed him of the incident. Johnson told the security officer to initiate a thorough search of the student.

search and seizure
Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides protection of all citizens against unreasonable search and seizure.

Since students enjoy many of the same constitutional rights as adults, they are granted protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

The challenge for school administrators is balancing students rights vs. providing a safe environment.

the fourth amendment
The Fourth Amendment
  • The right of the people to be secure in their person, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizure, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.
reasonable suspicion
Reasonable Suspicion???
  • School officials and teachers need only reasonable suspicion to initiate a search.
  • Reasonable suspicion is based on information received from students or teachers that is considered reliable by school officials.
  • Courts generally support administrative actions if the informant is known and credible verses an anonymous informant.
  • The courts have declared that in loco parentis cannot stand alone without reasonable suspicion.
new jersey v t l o
New Jersey v. T.L.O.
  • Supreme Court of the United States, 1985
  • Search of students by school officials is Constitutionally permissible if reasonable and not excessively intrusive.
  • A search of a student by a teacher or school official must be both “justified at its inception” and reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justifies the interference in the first place.”
  • The scope of the search must be limited to the incident at hand.
  • Sweep search of all students by a teacher in hopes of turning up evidence of contraband or violation of rules would be illegal.
  • There should be individualized suspicion (individual refers to individual student and individual violation)
  • Indiscriminate searches by teachers is illegal.
  • Courts view reasonable suspicion as the key ingredient in legalizing school searches.
personal search
Personal Search
  • Personal searches are strongly discouraged unless there is overwhelming evidence to support the need for the search.
  • There should be a sense of urgency based on a belief that the student has in their possession some dangerous item that poses a threat to the health and safety to students or others in school.
  • Only school personnel of the same gender should conduct a personal search.
search of automobiles on school property
Search of Automobiles on School Property
  • School officials may search a student’s automobile parked on school property if the standards of reasonable suspicion are met.
  • Students and parents should be informed by school or district policy that automobiles are subject to reasonable search if there is a legitimate basis for doing so.
search of automobile on nonschool property
Search of Automobile on Nonschool Property
  • Probable cause must be established.
  • Law enforcement are required to present a warrant prior to the initiation of a search.
  • Parents should be informed of the impending search.
  • If illegal items are discovered they are admissible in a court of law
guides for search seizure
Guides for Search & Seizure
  • A student’s freedom vs. the needs of the school
  • Factors related to the search
  • Reasonable grounds
  • Independent from law enforcement
  • Evidence may be available to law-enforcement
  • Personal searches should be avoided except when imminent danger exists.
  • Search in private
guides for search seizure cont
Guides for Search & Seizure cont.
  • The offense, evidence, and the background of the student should be considered before initiating a search.
  • “Pat-down” should be done by school personnel of same gender with an adult of the same gender present.
  • Arbitrary searches or mass shake downs cannot be justified as reasonable and are illegal.
search of student desk
Search of Student Desk
  • Student desks are subject to search if the standard of reasonableness is met.
  • Never search on a “hunch.”
  • Search based on reliable information.
  • Have written policy that informs student of searches if there is reasonable suspicion and the policy should spell out the conditions and circumstances in which a search would occur.
  • Wider discretion is given to school personnel when searching school property.
search of student lockers
Search of Student Lockers
  • Student lockers are subject to search if the standard of reasonableness is met.
  • Students should be informed that locker will be searched if reasonable suspicion is established.
  • The student as well as a school official should be present when a search of a locker occurs.
  • The student may also request the presence of another student when a search occurs.
  • Barring an emergency, indiscriminate searches of students lockers are indefensible and illegal.
  • c
search of student book bags
Search of Student Book Bags
  • Searches tend to be more complex.
  • Intrusive in nature.
  • Require stronger evidence to establish reasonable suspicion.
  • Desilets v. Clearview Regional Board of Education
    • 1994 New Jersey Superior Court – (Search of students book bags who are engaged in a field trip).
    • Search of student “hand luggage” justified under Fourth Amendment.
    • Based on preventing students taking contraband on field trip.
    • Students and parents informed that search would be conducted.
discussion questions
Discussion Questions
  • Was there a reasonable basis to initiate a search in this case? Why or why not?
  • Did the student’s behavior give rise of the need to be searched? Why or why not?
  • Can reasonable suspicion be clearly established and justified in this case? Why or why not?
discussion questions1
Discussion Questions
  • As a principal, would you have handled this situation differently? If so, describe your approach. If not, defend your position.
  • How would the court likely rule in this case?
  • What are the administrative implications of conducting a search under the circumstances described in this case?
  • “School Law and the Public Schools: A Practical Guide for Educational Leaders” Fourth Addition by Nathan L. Essex
  • “A Teacher’s Pocket Guide to School Law” by Nathan L. Essex