Random Locker Searches Essay

Random Locker Searches Essay-34
One tool for keeping schools safe is the use of student searches. This right is diminished in the school environment, however, because of the unique need to maintain a safe atmosphere where learning and teaching can occur. Schools must strike a balance between the student's right to privacy and the need to maintain school safety. But are law enforcement officials assigned to schools to maintain safety subject to the reasonable suspicion standard or the higher probable cause standard? The primary purpose of student searches is to maintain a safe learning environment.

One tool for keeping schools safe is the use of student searches. This right is diminished in the school environment, however, because of the unique need to maintain a safe atmosphere where learning and teaching can occur. Schools must strike a balance between the student's right to privacy and the need to maintain school safety. But are law enforcement officials assigned to schools to maintain safety subject to the reasonable suspicion standard or the higher probable cause standard?

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This vagueness leaves teachers, administrators, policymakers, and school security and law enforcement personnel wondering what constitutes a legal search of a student in a public school. Schools argued that administrators acted in loco parentis—in the place of the parent—while students were at school. Reasonable suspicion is satisfied when two conditions exist: (1) the search is justified at its inception, meaning that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will reveal evidence that the student has violated or is violating the law or school rules, and (2) the search is reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the search, meaning that the measures used to conduct the search are reasonably related to the objectives of the search and that the search is not excessively intrusive in light of the student's age and sex and the nature of the offense. When consent is granted, officials may conduct the search only within the boundaries of the consent.

If a student consents to the search of her purse, for example, an administrator may not search her locker unless the search of the purse provides probable cause or reasonable suspicion to search the locker.

Usually, law enforcement personnel conduct searches to reveal evidence of a violation of the law.

The seized evidence then can be used in a criminal trial to convict the student of a crime.

The courts have recently expanded the right of school officials to conduct student searches, resulting in part from recent acts of school violence and heightened public scrutiny. The answer depends on whether the court views law enforcement personnel assigned to the school as school officials or law enforcement officials.

A search that was illegal 20 years ago now may be a legal search. The Court concluded, however, that the school environment requires an easing of the restriction to which searches by public authorities are normally subject. Reasonable suspicion is a commonsense, nontechnical conception that deals with the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act. United States, 1996, at 695) School officials need only reasonable suspicion to search students in public schools, but sworn law enforcement officials normally must have probable cause to search students. When the police or school administrators act at one another's request, they run the risk of becoming one another's agents.

Such searches are subject to the reasonable suspicion standard.

Officials conduct random or blanket searches not because of individualized suspicion, but as a preventive measure.

The right of school officials or police to use dogs to detect drugs in students' belongings is well established.

In fact, most courts conclude that such detection is not a search because the dogs merely sniff the air around the property and that students do not have an expectation of privacy in the air around their belongings. This case changed practices in many school districts—those schools no longer use the dogs to sniff around students.

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