When Searching Students at School, It’s Still 1985
November 01, 2023
Appears in November 2023: School Administrator.
I recently fielded a call from a local superintendent who had reports of several middle school students in her school district possessing drugs on campus. She wanted to know if it was permissible in this setting to use a drug dog to do a sweep of the entire student body.
My thoughts went immediately to the nearly 40-year-old U. S. Supreme Court case of T.L.O. v. New Jersey. As I talked with the superintendent about the law of student searches, I realized the T.L.O. case (using the initials of the student involved, a juvenile) was decided in 1985. The context in which schools operate has changed dramatically since then. But though schools today face more serious and complex safety risks (particularly involving school shootings and social media), the legal standard for conducting school searches has not changed.