Search and Seizure within High Schools

Amaya Wybrant, Staff Writer

Schoolwide searches by the police are spontaneous and anxiety inducing, but they are important. Our school had a drug search a few weeks ago and it caused some excessive worry throughout the student body. A portion of this stress and anxiety was due to people’s lack of knowledge about the extent of the school’s (even the police’s) authority when it comes to situations such as these. In the United States Constitution, 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 or things to be seized.” Paraphrasing, this means that an authority figure has the right to search a person and/or their possessions if they do it in a reasonable manner and if they have specific and logical probable cause that they will find evidence that you have executed a wrongdoing (broken a law or rule) such as bringing contraband onto the campus. In most cases, (with the exception of specific emergency cases) an official search warrant with probable cause must be approved and issued for a police officer to search a student’s person (the student’s property).

Drug and Alcohol Searches:

Our school District 11 Student Interrogations, Searches and Arrest Policy states, “The principle or his/her designee may search the person of a student if the school official has reasonable grounds to believe that the student is in possession of contraband.” Contraband in this case, for those who do not know, are substances that are brought in/taken out of campus in direct defiance of a clear ban or regulation against this substance. For School District 11, this includes any tobacco products, nicotine delivery devices, alcohol distribution and consumption, drug paraphernalia (bongs, pipes and roach clips, etc.), and marijuana along with other illicit drugs. If the situation calls for it, an officer accompanied by a search dog will be brought in to find the contraband. This is what happened at Coronado a few weeks ago.

Student Rights: (What happens if you get caught?)

If there is a serious and demanding situation, the authorities may want to take a student’s statement but “the district will not use a student’s statement concerning an act alleged to have been committed by that student that results in mandatory expulsion in an expulsion hearing unless the statement is signed by the student, a parent, guardian or legal/physical custodian is present when the student signs the statement.” This means that they will encourage the student to give any information that will help the authorities dilute the situation, but they cannot use a student’s statement in a court of law that would result in charges or getting expelled from school without their parent or legal guardian in the room. The authorities will make the setting private and away from other students. Moral of the story, you have time to come up with a Plan B. (Many students will hide contraband in their lockers. This is not a bright idea in most cases. Lockers are considered property of the school and can be searched at any time with reasonable suspicion.) If you are the one getting searched, the school has the right to search for anything you are in possession of at that time, backpacks, purses, bookbags and even your pockets. Although getting searched may be inevitable at this point, they will make sure to take the student “out of the presents of other students” and make it as private as they can to conduct the search. One person who is the same sex as you may search you and no more than 3 people of the same sex can be in the room to witness the search. As soon as the search starts, the administration will notify a parent or guardian about the situation unless specifically instructed not to. If the search that is being conducted requires the “removal of clothing other than the coat or jacket [it will be] referred to a law enforcement officer”. School employees are not allowed to conduct any strip searches. Remember, they cannot search a student without reasonable suspicion.

There is nothing to stress about if you have nothing to hide so word to the wise, DO NOT bring vapes, weed or other substances to school. (There are many resources and opportunities for students to get assistance with reversing addiction and diluting substance abuse. The vast opportunities may range from just talking to a parent/guardian or calling a national helpline or signing up for a rehab.) Even if you did not do anything wrong, when the searches are happening, they can still cause anxiety and you can still talk to someone about elevated levels of stress. (Link to the page where you can schedule an appointment for our school counselors listed below.)[email protected]/bookings/