What Are Your Rights As A Student When A Teacher or Other Faculty Member Requests To Search Your Personal Belongings?

Recently, I was honored to help teach three Civics classes at a local high school in a discussion of Supreme Court cases addressing how the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution, which guards against unreasonable search and seizures, applies in the school setting. 

The case of Safford Unified School District v. Redding 557 U.S. 364 (2009) played an important part of this discussion. 

In Safford, the Court held that the strip search of a middle schooler violated the student’s rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution when school personnel lacked sufficient basis to suspect that the discovery of non-prescription drugs (Ibuprofen) presented a danger to other students or that the student had concealed other contraband in her underwear. The court relied largely on the standard it had established earlier in New Jersey v. T. L. O.

T.L.O established the requirement of reasonable suspicion for school personnel to perform a search rather than the probable cause standard applied to police and other law enforcement agencies. 

While there is a lower level of suspicion necessary in the school setting to justify a search, the searches of students by school faculty require the nature and scope of the search be reasonably related to the objectives of the search and not excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction.

If you have a question regarding whether your child’s rights were violated by an improper search on school property feel free to call our office at (312)726-6722 for a free case evaluation.

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