The Right to Search Students

New Jersey v. T.L.O, 1985

Story of the Case

A New Jersey high school freshman was caught smoking in the school lavatory. She was later searched by the vice principal and found cigarettes, marijuana, paper bags, a pipe, rolling papers, a large amount of money, and a index card listing names of people who owed her money. The vice principal turned over the evidence to the police and she was charged as a juvenile with criminal activity. The girl's attorney claimed that the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant for a probable cause and later reached the Supreme Court. The court pointed out that the school officials don't meet the standards as police when they search people. And also said that "the warrant requirement" is unsuited for any school.

The girl's attorney claimed that the 4th amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure and then held the 4th amendments requirements for a warrant and a probable cause to the girl while in high school. Once the case reached the Supreme Court they ruled that school officials don't have the same rights to conduct searches as the police would. They came to the conclusion that "the warrant requirement" is "unsuited to the school environment and would unduly interfere with the maintenance for the swift and informal disciplinary procedures needed in the schools". So basically if they suspect the student is violating either a law or the rules of school, they can search them. The significance of this is that us citizens might see "a dangerous weakening of the purpose of the Fourth Amendment to protect the privacy and security of our citizens" as Justice William Brennan said. Two other justices also disagreed with him about letting the school officials use reasonableness standard instead of the same probable cause standard required of police.

Works Cited

*Picture 1: Google Images (First page)

*Picture 2: Google Images (first page)

*Picture 3: Google images (first page)