Free Essay About The Definition Of Reasonable Suspicion Has Been Expanded Upon Multiple Times Since 1985.
Between one in five and one in three high school students in America have used drugs or alcohol (NIDA). Many of these children see drugs for the first time while they are at school. The ever-increasing problem of teenage drug use can hardly be understated. That is why teachers should have the right to search students for drugs on school grounds.
Many argue that searching students for drugs violates their Fourth Amendment right not to be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment states that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons and or things to be seized (FindLaw).”
However, depending on the state and district, the first ten amendment rights may not be applicable within school zones. For example, schools routinely censor their newspapers in order that inappropriate or offensive materials not be published. Private and even public schools may also forbid certain types of dress. Outside school, students can speak their mind and dress how they please; within school, some restrictions may apply.
In fact, the subject of searching students has been taken to the Supreme Court many times. In the 1985 Supreme Court case New Jersey v. T. L. O., the Court concluded that, given reasonable suspicion, school administrators do not need a warrant or probable cause to search students (Ehlenberger). The requirements of reasonable suspicion are met when (a) there are “reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will reveal evidence”, and (b) the scope of the search is in proportion with the seriousness of the offense. This means that the search should not be “excessively intrusive” in light of the age and sex of the student, or in light of the nature of the crime thought to be committed.
Some of the revisions have been to protect students; some have increased the power of school officials to conduct searches. According to A. S. vs. The State of Florida (1997), if four students are huddled closely together, that does not constitute sufficient grounds to conduct a drug search. But by Bridgman v. New Trier High School District No. 203 (1997), if an experienced drug counselor observes a student to appear under the influence of drugs, he or she is justified in taking the student's pulse and blood pressure. In 2014, if a teacher or administrator is given reasonable suspicion, then she or she possesses the legal right to search students. However, this does not mean that the odor of marijuana in the hallway provides enough evidence for all the students' bags, lockers, and purses to be searched.
There are some schools where drug use among students is rare. But there are some schools where drug use on and off campus is rampant. If a school is known to have a drug culture, the use of randomized searches can help make sure students keep their drugs at home, without singling out any particular student.
We must ask whether the right of a student not to be searched supersedes the right of his or her fellow classmates to have a drug-free school. I argue that it does not. In most cultures, the rights of the many are thought to outweigh the rights of the individual. School is the last place on earth where children should be exposed to drugs. The student who brings drugs to school violates the rights of other students not to be in environment where illicit substances are being used and sold. Is a student's individual right not to be searched more important than the collective rights of his classmates to go to a drug-free school?
Another argument put forth against the searching of students is the fact that drug searches won't prevent students from doing drugs.This is true – a student who is likely to use drugs will most likely use them in a place other than on the school grounds. However, drug searches will at least help maintain a safe campus and prevent the use and sale of drugs at school. By exercising reasonable suspicion in conducting drug searches, teachers can make sure that their students are not exposed to harmful substances.
One may argue that if a student is searched but found not to be carrying drugs, it can humiliate them and hurt their self-esteem. This is a small price to pay compared to the price of allowing drugs to be used and sold at school. But if in fact the student is found to be carrying drugs, then it is only with that discovery that a concerned adult can help them obtain the help for the substance abuse problem that they must clearly have. Additionally, if drugs are found then the search will have clearly been justified, and by removing the student and the drugs from school, the other students will be put out of harm's way.
Finally, no one has a reasonable expectation of privacy in public. If you have a conversation with your friends about doing drugs in public, your conversation may be recorded. If you smoke weed in public, someone can take a picture of you and text it to the police. If the police suspect you of doing drugs in public, they can stop and search you. A high school is no exception to this rule.
In school, as in most public settings, students forfeit their right to their own personal property to people of authority. For example, if a teacher asks his class to turn over all their cellphones to him during a test, then his students are required to comply. If they do not, they may risk failing the class or being kicked out of the school. Likewise, if a person does not cooperate with an officer of the law, they may be arrested for noncompliance. In that way, schools hold their own jurisdiction over students and teachers are like Law Enforcement Officers.
However, whatever a teacher's suspicions may be, a student still has the right to bodily autonomy (Feldman).Whether the student has drugs or not, no one besides the police has the right to touch anyone else without their consent. Nevertheless, a school official still has the right to search a student's backpack or to ask them to empty their pockets. If the student refuses, they may be sent home or suspended. Their locker, which does not belong to them and is actually school property, can be searched. Whatever expectation of privacy the student thinks he or she has, it must always be trumped by the school’s right to enforce a rigorous standard of safety.
The requirement of reasonable suspicion will prevent the unjustified or illegal use of search.
It will ensure that students will only be searched if a teacher has probable cause. Most students will have nothing to worry about and will not be affected.
The bottom line is that students have a right to feel safe at school. For eight hours a day, they have the right not to be in the presence of illicit substances or weapons. It is the responsibility of adults – school administrators and teachers – to ensure that students feel safe.
We rely on teachers to provide not only academic instruction to children, but also guidance and moral authority. School cannot be a place of safety and learning if teachers and school officials are not able to enforce these standards. Therefore, it is not only that teachers should have the right to search students for drugs, it is their responsibility to do so in order to maintain a safe and drug-free school.
“Drug Facts: High School and Youth Trends.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Web. Dec. 2014.
Ehlenberger, K. R. “The Right to Search Students.” Understanding the Law 59.4 (2001): 31- 35. Dec 2001.
“When the Fourth Amendment Applies.” FindLaw. Web. 2014.
Feldman, Amy E. “When does a public school have the right to search its students?” The National Constitution Center. 31 May 2013.
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