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Legal Searches?

LoataLoata Registered User regular
edited November 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
Every year our school's administration changes like the Defense Against the Dark Arts position at Harry Potter's school. This year's goal seems to be cracking down on drugs or knives or something.

They do this by doing 'random' searches of class rooms where the assistant principles and a couple of officers go into a class room and everyone lines up and gets a metal detector wand passed over them. No big deal on this, I mean, it isn't intrusive or anything other than taking up class time. Though, now, they have started doing bag and body searches.

I don't have anything to hide from them, so it isn't a matter of trying to get around them finding me out. I just don't like having people in authority abusing people who don't know what they can and can't actually do. And being 16, I'm an idiot when it comes to law-type readings and I'm not sure if what I read was actually what I was reading. But I asked an actual lawyer and he said they could do bag searches, but not body searches without parental permission, as far as he knew.

But I was reading some law school papers and being 16, an idiot, and reading it with a bias, I have no idea if I am anywhere near right. It said that searches have to be in scope with what they are looking for and reasonable suspicion while schools don't need a whole lot to be considered 'reasonable suspicion' they do need a bit. And throwing blanket searches on entire classrooms is certain to turn up something, but would it be within 'scope' for what they are trying to find? Which would be drugs and weapons or whatever they could hope to find.

So, yeah, really all I want to know is would I be able to legally object to bag searches and body searches?

tl;dr School started random bag and body searches, would I be able to object to being searched?

Loata on

Posts

  • Jason ToddJason Todd Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I'm not a law expert, but I'm guessing the people in H/A who are will want to know where you live

    Jason Todd on
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  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Find your local branch of the ACLU. Call or write to them. It's been awhile since my Con Law class, and while high schools can get away with a lot, this seems like it might be excessive. The ACLU will not only be able to tell you whether or not it's legal, but if it isn't legal, they'll most likely be able to stop it with one letter (this all assumes you live in the U.S.).

    Thanatos on
  • WillethWilleth Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    If they suspect that there are drugs or knives in school then their bit of reasonable suspicion is that. Hell, even if they want to do searches as a preventative measure that's probably reason enough. I guess this depends on if your school has history with this kind of trouble or anything.

    As you're a minor then you're pretty much under the law of your school. I would agree with the lawyer you spoke to in that they can search your posessions but not your body without parental consent. Note that what he said may not have been 'legal advice', even though a lawyer said it to you. I am also not a lawyer and cannot dispense this advice.

    Willeth on
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  • LoataLoata Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Yeah, I wasn't really looking for 'legal advice' from here, just trying to figure out if I was even in the ballpark in thinking that what they are doing might not be okay.

    But, I will check out the ACLU guys this weekend, so thanks for that bit.

    Also, from what I have seen, it is the administrators that try to do the body searches, and from what I read that is a BIG no-no. I was sort of searched by an administrator a few weeks ago. She asked me to turn out my pockets during one of the classroom searches and and then she touched the pocket area. Didn't pat me down or anything, just lightly touched. I wasn't sure if I could even object, and she was pretty nice about it and wasn't accusing me off the bat or anything, so I just let her. But, still, I don't want people from the school touching me in any way if I don't have to let them (I have a sort of semi-phobia of people touching me).

    Loata on
  • HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    There was some controversy on this at my high school. Basically, the basic legal precedent is that schools have more power to enforce their rules while you're on school grounds than the police do to enforce the law when you're out in public. Random searches have been upheld in the past, and criminal convictions have been attained against students who were searched at school under conditions that, had the police conducted the search off of school grounds, it most likely would have been illegal.

    Basically, if you're going to break the rules, do it off of campus - the primary goal of my high school's ongoing "security" program (They started it when I was in elementary school, it's still going unsuccessfully now, and I'm 25) is that students over 18 smoke just off of campus. On campus, students can be expelled for having cigarettes and prosecuted under Michigan laws banning adults from smoking on school grounds, but off of campus, it's a police matter, only minors get picked up, and generally get a slap on the wrist and a call to their parents.

    (Edited for ambiguous wording)

    Hevach on
  • TL DRTL DR Not at all confident in his reflexive opinions of thingsRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Ugh, this is pretty disgusting.

    TL DR on
  • LoataLoata Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Ugh, this is pretty disgusting.

    My posts or the school searching people? D:

    Loata on
  • Shark_MegaByteShark_MegaByte Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    "To have a right to do a thing
    is not at all the same
    as to be right in doing it."
    - GK Chesterton (spacing mine)

    The searches may be legal, but groups of students talking to the administration in a serious and civil way may persuade them to minimize searching. Getting the social studies teachers to participate could be very helpful, since they should be aware that distrust coming from authority tends to breed distrust and hostility toward that authority.

    Shark_MegaByte on
  • UnknownSaintUnknownSaint Kasyn Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    This is a pretty controversial subject, the grounds of school searches. There's tons of precedent cases for some of it.

    Basically where it stands is that as a minor in their school you don't really have full rights. They can pull the safety card and have SCOTUS rulings backing them up.

    However, it's still a very murky thing and with enough pressure (from student organizations, the local community, etc.) they very well could cave a bit on the issue. If it's hugely important to you then there are ways to go about this, but you should also realize that the way this type of thing has swung before in case law is in their favor, not yours. (Edit - Hevach pretty much said it all already, which I just noticed. Either way it's worth repeating.)

    Good luck!

    UnknownSaint on
  • TychoCelchuuuTychoCelchuuu PIGEON Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Like Shark says your best bet is not to figure out if it's legal or not (schools have lawyers, they try to keep away from breaking the laws) but to talk with the school. If you really feel like reading up on the law though, here's some cases to get you started:

    New Jersey v T.L.O
    Vernonia School Dist 47J v. Acton
    Board of Education v. Earls

    TychoCelchuuu on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Loata wrote: »
    Ugh, this is pretty disgusting.
    My posts or the school searching people? D:
    The school searching people. You won't find a lot of people on these boards saying "yes, what we need to teach our children is that they should live like people do in 1984."

    Thanatos on
  • TL DRTL DR Not at all confident in his reflexive opinions of thingsRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Thanatos wrote: »
    Loata wrote: »
    Ugh, this is pretty disgusting.
    My posts or the school searching people? D:
    The school searching people. You won't find a lot of people on these boards saying "yes, what we need to teach our children is that they should live like people do in 1984."

    I guess since public schools are so over-funded they have to find things for the faculty to do instead of teach children.

    TL DR on
  • RUNN1NGMANRUNN1NGMAN Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Be careful about pushing too hard, because if you decide you don't want to let them search your backpacks, they're just going to say you can't have backpacks.

    RUNN1NGMAN on
  • ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I hate to say it, but here's the reality. They have the right do whatever the fuck they deem necessary to make sure you aren't doing anything illegal

    Is it obtrusive and possibly unconstitutional? Sure. But you have to look at it from there perspective. Say they don't go uber-paranoid-ultra-bullshit on you. And SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY, someone pulls off a school shooting. The parents of victims now sue you for what you DIDN'T do. You lose, courtesy of public opinion. Was it a just case? Probably not. But the fact is, just like Doctors, Schools now have to heavily cover their asses or else risk exposure.

    Scrublet on
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  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Scrublet wrote: »
    I hate to say it, but here's the reality. They have the right do whatever the fuck they deem necessary to make sure you aren't doing anything illegal

    Is it obtrusive and possibly unconstitutional? Sure. But you have to look at it from there perspective. Say they don't go uber-paranoid-ultra-bullshit on you. And SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY, someone pulls off a school shooting. The parents of victims now sue you for what you DIDN'T do. You lose, courtesy of public opinion. Was it a just case? Probably not. But the fact is, just like Doctors, Schools now have to heavily cover their asses or else risk exposure.
    They don't, in fact, have that right. They have rights which are very specifically set out in case law, and the Constitution. Schools are limited differently by the Constitution than other places, but they are still limited by it. If you want to discuss whether or not it's necessary, fine, make a D&D thread, but this post isn't particularly helpful.

    Thanatos on
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited November 2008
    Bag searches? Fine. Locker searches? Probably, on the whole, a good thing. Body searches? That's the line. As far as I'm concerned, school administrators should not be touching you in any way or form, and if they want the searches done they need to bring in outside professionals, like police.

    That is my opinion, but I'm willing to bet there's some recourse out there somewhere when it comes to them actually touching students in a probing way. Not sure where you live, but hopefully someone who does know can direct you to the right place.

    ceres on
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  • ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Thanatos wrote: »
    Scrublet wrote: »
    I hate to say it, but here's the reality. They have the right do whatever the fuck they deem necessary to make sure you aren't doing anything illegal

    Is it obtrusive and possibly unconstitutional? Sure. But you have to look at it from there perspective. Say they don't go uber-paranoid-ultra-bullshit on you. And SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY, someone pulls off a school shooting. The parents of victims now sue you for what you DIDN'T do. You lose, courtesy of public opinion. Was it a just case? Probably not. But the fact is, just like Doctors, Schools now have to heavily cover their asses or else risk exposure.
    They don't, in fact, have that right. They have rights which are very specifically set out in case law, and the Constitution. Schools are limited differently by the Constitution than other places, but they are still limited by it. If you want to discuss whether or not it's necessary, fine, make a D&D thread, but this post isn't particularly helpful.

    I'm not sure how to be helpful here. The OP asked if he has the right to be searched. The Constitution was written very broadly on this subject, so we primarily have to rely on the case law. My original post wasn't very well thought out and I probably could have made it a bit more unbiased. So let me rephrase: the OP may have the right to object, but I'm not sure how far it's going to get him. I've been loosely keeping tabs on my high school's transformation over the past few years (I graduated in 2003). They have implemented locked doors on all doors (you have to buzz in to the school). At lunch in the cafeteria, nobody is allowed to leave their table after sitting down with their food unless they ask for permission. Armed guard patrol the halls. Bag searches are random and common. My understanding is this is the direction many schools have gone.

    I'll go back to my original point that I think a lot of this is driven by liability. When a school shooting or some such event happens, it seems like everyone winds up pointing fingers at the school (with civil lawsuits) asking "why didn't you do this..." So now they're doing everything. I'm assuming this is a public school btw...I'm not sure if the rules are different for private schools since you actively choose to go there.

    Scrublet on
    subedii wrote: »
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  • VisionOfClarityVisionOfClarity Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Thanatos wrote: »
    Loata wrote: »
    Ugh, this is pretty disgusting.
    My posts or the school searching people? D:
    The school searching people. You won't find a lot of people on these boards saying "yes, what we need to teach our children is that they should live like people do in 1984."

    I guess since public schools are so over-funded they have to find things for the faculty to do instead of teach children.

    Yea it has nothing to do with pervasive drug use or violence.



    Also, everything up until the pocket emptying is completely legal and the school has every right to do it and there is so much legal precedent for it it's not even a question at this point.

    The pocket emptying can only be done on the basis of reasonable suspicion which could be just about anything to a teacher saying she saw you doing something wrong to protesting about your bag being searched. It's circular, but accepted when it comes to school safety. What the OP should do is talk to the administration about her lack of comfort with people touching her. That being said the OP didn't say that everyone was body searched during the classroom search and if she was specifically targeted due to any sort of suspicion then they had every right to search her. Without knowing what the admin knows it's tricky.

    VisionOfClarity on
  • AldoAldo Hippo Hooray Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    OP, you're 16, this probably means you are almost done with high school. No matter how corrupt your school is you must realise one thing: these people have the absolute power to decide on how much pain they can make you go through to be done with high school.

    I was in a vaguely similar situation as you, I had a big pile of proof on a number of cases of the school violating its own regulations or the law. I decided against even contacting anyone outside my family for one simple reason: I was almost done with school and I did not want to risk anything. If you think a teacher can be an asshole to you for disagreeing with him ... just imagine how much shit you will have to go through for getting into a fight with the higher ups of your school.

    I guess this will not make me popular with the rest of the thread. :P

    Aldo on
  • CoJoeTheLawyerCoJoeTheLawyer Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Thanatos wrote: »
    Find your local branch of the ACLU. Call or write to them. It's been awhile since my Con Law class, and while high schools can get away with a lot, this seems like it might be excessive. The ACLU will not only be able to tell you whether or not it's legal, but if it isn't legal, they'll most likely be able to stop it with one letter (this all assumes you live in the U.S.).

    Right out of law school I had a case with the same set of facts (School conducting unreasonable "random" searches during class time, no reasonable suspection, no probable cause, compete with the full body pat down search in front of the entire class) and the ACLU stepped in on my client's behalf and came down hard on the school district.

    CoJoeTheLawyer on

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  • LoataLoata Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Wow, thanks for all the responses guys. So far I have been random classroom searched 3 or 4 times, and pocket searched once. Next time, I if they try to pat me down or anything, I'll just politely tell them that I would gladly turn out my pockets completely by myself, but I don't want them touching me.

    And I'm not going to go telling them they are breaking the law or anything terribly idiotic like that unless I have the ACLU or something backing me.

    This is something I feel strongly about so I will definitely give the ACLU a call and continue to read up on the subject. If you want to leave this topic open for discussion or further input, I'll post again with what the ACLU tells me. Or if not, go ahead and lock it.

    Thanks again for the ideas everyone.

    Loata on
  • TregorySullivanTregorySullivan Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    If there have been as many classroom searches as you say, then you may actually have a case. Unless the school's administration can back the reason for those searches (beyond just making sure), they aren't just doing an unreasonable search, but also making the school environment a hostile one. I know that rules are mostly relaxed for school searches, but they are also supposed to ensure that the environment allows for studying; by having so many searches, they are disrupting that environment.

    TS

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  • FyreWulffFyreWulff YouRegistered User, ClubPA regular
    edited November 2008
    Scrublet wrote: »
    I hate to say it, but here's the reality. They have the right do whatever the fuck they deem necessary to make sure you aren't doing anything illegal

    Is it obtrusive and possibly unconstitutional? Sure. But you have to look at it from there perspective. Say they don't go uber-paranoid-ultra-bullshit on you. And SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY, someone pulls off a school shooting. The parents of victims now sue you for what you DIDN'T do. You lose, courtesy of public opinion. Was it a just case? Probably not. But the fact is, just like Doctors, Schools now have to heavily cover their asses or else risk exposure.

    Name one school shooting that could have been prevented by a random in-classroom search.

    FyreWulff on
  • TL DRTL DR Not at all confident in his reflexive opinions of thingsRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I could see maybe random bag checks at the front door, with the option to pursue a specific search of a student with reasonable suspicion. There's nothing to be gained from searching kids in the classroom except telling kids that they should stay out of the classroom if they don't want to be harassed and treated like criminals.

    TL DR on
  • VisionOfClarityVisionOfClarity Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    FyreWulff wrote: »
    Scrublet wrote: »
    I hate to say it, but here's the reality. They have the right do whatever the fuck they deem necessary to make sure you aren't doing anything illegal

    Is it obtrusive and possibly unconstitutional? Sure. But you have to look at it from there perspective. Say they don't go uber-paranoid-ultra-bullshit on you. And SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY, someone pulls off a school shooting. The parents of victims now sue you for what you DIDN'T do. You lose, courtesy of public opinion. Was it a just case? Probably not. But the fact is, just like Doctors, Schools now have to heavily cover their asses or else risk exposure.

    Name one school shooting that could have been prevented by a random in-classroom search.

    It's not about preventing the next Columbine all the time. This would have prevented several stabbings that occurred in MA in the last few years though.

    VisionOfClarity on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Guys, again, this thread is not about whether these searches are good or not. It is about advice on what the OP can do to deal with them. If you want to discuss whether they're good or not, feel free to start a D&D thread, where I will be more than happy to lay the verbal smack down.
    Aldo wrote: »
    OP, you're 16, this probably means you are almost done with high school. No matter how corrupt your school is you must realise one thing: these people have the absolute power to decide on how much pain they can make you go through to be done with high school.

    I was in a vaguely similar situation as you, I had a big pile of proof on a number of cases of the school violating its own regulations or the law. I decided against even contacting anyone outside my family for one simple reason: I was almost done with school and I did not want to risk anything. If you think a teacher can be an asshole to you for disagreeing with him ... just imagine how much shit you will have to go through for getting into a fight with the higher ups of your school.

    I guess this will not make me popular with the rest of the thread. :P
    Things are a little different in the U.S., Aldo. The courts tend to take Constitutional rights very, very seriously. Schools are state actors (public schools, anyway), and are therefore restricted to follow that Constitution, including the right to be free of unreasonable searches, and the right to sue. If, after having done some whistleblowing, the administration even has the appearance that they're treating the OP unfairly, that's not "oh, shit, high school is going to suck." That's winning the lottery. And I mean that literally. Because there's going to be a line of lawyers around the block chomping at the bit to take the case (almost certainly including the ACLU), and it's going to incur what we call "punitive damages." "Punitive damages" means "hey, the actual damages you did by violating Constitutional rights aren't really a deterrent, so here's a big fat chunk of change for the plaintiff just to make it really, really hurt."

    Thanatos on
  • DalbozDalboz Resident Puppy Eater Right behind you...Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    The only problem is that over a decade ago, SCOTUS pretty much determined that the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to minors, so they can do pretty much whatever they want. There are limits, though. For example, the bag searches and stuff would likely be determined to be legal and not actually violating the students' rights because students essentially have none anyway. Where things would become a problem is the body searches, which could be argued as being potential for abuse and molestation, and therefore compromising the safety the students.

    I agree with sending out the ACLU signal, let them come in the ACLUmobile, and determine whether they should throw a few ACLUerangs arounds.

    Dalboz on
  • TL DRTL DR Not at all confident in his reflexive opinions of thingsRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Dalboz wrote: »
    The only problem is that over a decade ago, SCOTUS pretty much determined that the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to minors, so they can do pretty much whatever they want. There are limits, though. For example, the bag searches and stuff would likely be determined to be legal and not actually violating the students' rights because students essentially have none anyway. Where things would become a problem is the body searches, which could be argued as being potential for abuse and molestation, and therefore compromising the safety the students.

    I agree with sending out the ACLU signal, let them come in the ACLUmobile, and determine whether they should throw a few ACLUerangs arounds.

    Actually, the famous quote is that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” This was a SCOTUS case in '69 regarding students' right to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War, iirc. If this wasn't the case, then the ACLU would be toothless here.

    edit: Link to the case in question

    TL DR on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Dalboz wrote: »
    The only problem is that over a decade ago, SCOTUS pretty much determined that the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to minors, so they can do pretty much whatever they want. There are limits, though. For example, the bag searches and stuff would likely be determined to be legal and not actually violating the students' rights because students essentially have none anyway. Where things would become a problem is the body searches, which could be argued as being potential for abuse and molestation, and therefore compromising the safety the students.

    I agree with sending out the ACLU signal, let them come in the ACLUmobile, and determine whether they should throw a few ACLUerangs arounds.
    Actually, the famous quote is that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” This was a SCOTUS case in '69 regarding students' right to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War, iirc. If this wasn't the case, then the ACLU would be toothless here.

    edit: Link to the case in question
    That was the quote, but the way the case law has worked out since then, Dalboz is way closer to the actual truth.

    Thanatos on
  • TheLawinatorTheLawinator Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    At my school nobody is allowed to do any body searches or bag searches, since I'm pretty sure it is illegal. Lockers are totally fine since it's the schools property and right so search.

    It was kind of funny because one time these 3 stoners were called down to the office because the administration was damn sure there was a deal going down (in school, I mean COME ON DUH?!?!?). So the school disciplinarian told them they should put their backpacks in their lockers and come back to wait for the principal. After they came back the lockers were searched along with the bags. I think some of them were even taking Con Law at the time.

    Of course, I go to a private Catholic school.

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