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Starting in 1968 and culminating in 1984, the law of the land concerning the status of students vis-a-vis school authorities shifted to a more constitutional basis. (as the student involved was identified to protect her identity), after she had been accused of violating the school's policy of smoking a cigarette on high school property. money, and two letters that involved her in dealing marijuana. Also, for the first time, the court considered school officials, when acting in furtherance of publicly mandated educational and disciplinary policies, far more akin to government agents--the very subject of Fourth Amendment restrictions--than to parental surrogates who, under the doctrine of in loco parentis, were free from constitutional restraints. court carved out another such exception to the usual standard; it found that the Fourth Amendment's requirement of reasonableness was met if school authorities acted without a warrant, but with "reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of the school. *Perform a visual or manual body cavity search (Student searches and the law, 1995). case were not substantially reviewed until the courts assessed the issue of mandatory and voluntary drug testing. Prior to that time, student-school rights were defined by the common law doctrine of "in loco parentis, which for centuries posited that school officials had the "right, duty, and responsibility to act in the place of a parent. In that case, an assistant vice principal opened and searched the purse of T. His search disclosed not only a pack of cigarettes but also rolling papers associated with marijuana use, marijuana, a pipe, plastic bags, a large sum of money, a list of students who owed T. When she was arrested on drug charges, she claimed that the evidence found in her purse should be suppressed as the fruits of an unreasonable search and seizure. The final question considered by the court was whether the search was reasonable, as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Such a search will be permissible in its scope when the measures adopted are reasonably related to the objectives of the search and are not excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction" (p. Thus the "reasonable suspicion" standard was definitively asserted. *Search a student's car in the school parking lot (State v. Goose Creek Independent School District, 1982; Jennings v. Latexo Independent School District, 1980) or metal detector machines (People v. As contentious as Fourth Amendment issues have been, the lessons of the T. Until 1995, the short answer to the question of whether schools could mandate all or a class of students to submit to blood or urine tests for drugs could be clearly answered: "no" (Price, 1988). Constitution, but also to the nation's common sense of students' integrity (Anable v. Carlstadt-East Rutherford Regional School District, 1985). The courts did, however, make a distinction between mandatory and voluntary drug testing, with the latter subject to no Fourth Amendment protections, as it is based upon consent. With respect to students' rights in school, the current direction of Fourth Amendment law reflects society's fears of and disrespect for children and the paucity of alternatives to police-type enforcement measures that are both in use and under consideration in the schools.
Thus, although the Federal decisions illustrated below apply nationwide, and do serve to mark the boundaries of permissible state and local action, they are no substitute for an understanding of the many legal issues that are primarily a function of state and local laws.
State and local school authorities must check the laws, regulations, legal precedents, and policies of their own jurisdiction to ascertain the lawful limits of their own actions, rather than rely upon the examples cited here.
The finding of "reasonableness" was based upon Vernonia's dictum that the nature of students' "rights is what is appropriate for children in school." Cheema v.
Thompson (1995) extended the previously abandoned legal theory of schools' functioning in loco parentis.
In ensuring school safety, the courts have sought to balance students' constitutional rights with the need for safety and freedom from violence in the schools.
At present, the balance is thoroughly tilted towards efforts to effect tough safety and drug policies in the schools and against any extension of the current scant constitutional rights students enjoy. It is important to state, however, that education is almost exclusively a matter of state and local laws, regulations, and policies. It rarely involves the Federal government or Federal powers, except for the Federal courts' interpretations of constitutional protections in the school setting. The court noted that Vernonia held that for many purposes "school authorities act in loco parentis" when it decided, on other grounds, that Sikh students in California cannot be forced to utterly abandon their possession of religiously mandated ceremonial knives or cease attending public elementary school. After Cheema, it could be posited that there are still legal grounds to argue that school authorities are endowed with parental rights when assuring students' safety and drug-free status, and that students' constitutional protections are subservient to those parental rights. Their right to act included the exercise of many parental powers, such as the right to search students for illegal items, or for those items merely considered as contraband under state or local law or school district policies, without the warrant or probable cause mandated for all other citizens under the Fourth Amendment. The Amendment requires a warrant and probable cause before a search is considered reasonable, although there are several exceptions to the imposition of that formulaic and high standard. It permitted school authorities to lawfully search students upon meeting its two-pronged test: the search must be (1) reasonable in inception, and (2) reasonable in scope. *Upon hearing an unusual thud when a student threw his bag onto a metal cabinet, a security guard rubbed his hand along the bag to feel for a gun (Matter of Gregory M., 1992/1993). Slattery, 1990; Student searches and the law, 1995). Such testing was seen as a violation of students' reasonable expectation of privacy (Jones v. That distinction blurs, though, when the tests are used as a precondition for school enrollment or for participation in extracurricular activities. The doctrine of in loco parentis began crumbling in 1968, when Tinker v. Some recent search cases in which the two-pronged "reasonableness test" was successfully applied include these: *A school dance monitor, who, upon seeing that some students were inebriated, in contravention of school policy, took them to a private office and asked them to blow on her face (Martinez v. *Upon a student's report to a guidance counselor that another student possessed an illicit drug, the administrator searched the latter student's book bag, because the administrator also had knowledge that the student had been previously disciplined for possession of a controlled substance (State v. The case law on student search and seizure has yielded a few other useful factors to consider when conducting a search to ensure that it is reasonable at the inception and in scope. [case] rule and its progeny have been applied to the rights of school authorities to engage in the following acts: *Search students' school lockers to look for contraband or illegal materials (Student searches and the law, 1995; S. Until June 27, 1995, the courts were split on drug testing as a precondition for participating in extracurricular activities, with some courts approving it exactly because these activities are voluntary (Student Searches and the Law, 1995). Vernonia School District 47J (1991), which involved a high school student, James Acton, who wanted to be on his school's football team. As the preoccupation with drugs and gang paraphernalia in the schoolhouse has escalated, school searches of students and seizures of their property in accord with the Fourth Amendment comprise a cutting edge issue for the courts and school authorities. This digest presents a brief review of recent Fourth Amendment decisions that affect the rights of students and the parameters of schools' authority to maintain a crime-free environment. In an outright reversal of any previous rationales, the Court emphasized that a random drug testing policy was better than suspicion-based testing because the latter would turn the process into a badge of shame and would also permit teachers to arbitrarily test "troublesome but not drug-likely students." The citation of Vernonia has served as the precedent for several constitutional decisions on the Federal district court or circuit court of appeals levels during the few years since its issuance. Clinton (1996) found a strong governmental interest in permitting random drug testing of high school athletes, when such testing is "undertaken in furtherance of the government's responsibilities, under a public school system, as guardian and tutor of children, entrusted to its care." Thompson v. O.'s two-pronged "reasonable test" and then applied the lessons of Vernonia. Carthage School District (1996) permitted the generalized search of all males in the sixth through twelfth grades in an Arkansas school district that required them to empty their pockets and to submit to a "pat-down" for weapons by school authorities. It found that Vernonia--which established that random drug testing in the absence of individualized suspicion, was "reasonable," and that even the significant privacy invasion of a urinalysis was justified by the important government interest, as students' "reasonable guardian and tutor" in reducing drug abuse by student athletes--could buttress the court's rationale in permitting the invasive "pat-down" and emptying of pockets. Batavia School District (1995), the court cited Vernonia when it permitted as a reasonable seizure a teacher's grabbing a high school student's wrists and elbow and escorting her out of the classroom, after observing the student participate in a screaming match with another student and then threaten that student with physical violence.