Ideally schools in the United States are considered by both parents and students alike to be “safe-havens” where parents can trust their children to learn and remain safe during the day and where students can feel safe in a well-maintained learning environment. However within this fully regulated government service, there are often debates over proper classroom environments, teaching tactics, and privacy issues. Today the main privacy issue in public schools is where to draw the line between keeping the school safe and maintaining the privacy of the students (Boomer par. 19).
Searches and seizures in schools are not recent issues; however they are becoming more public now than in recent years. The Bill of Rights covers searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment which 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” (Bill of Rights par. 9). Under the Bill of Rights, citizens are guaranteed a right to privacy and are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures that are conducted without “probable cause,” evidence sufficient to warrant an arrest or search and seizure.
However, because the Bill of Rights may be vague in its’ description of what constitutes “probable cause,” many cases have been brought before the Supreme Court to debate whether there was sufficient evidence for a search or seizure to take place, and some of these cases have dealt with searches and seizures in schools. One major Supreme Court case took place in 1984 and focused on the issue of searches in schools. The case, New Jersey vs. TLO, began after a teacher found students smoking in a school bathroom. After denying the charge, a school administrator demanded to see a students’ purse in which he found cigarettes and marijuana (Search and Seizure 596). After traveling through each of the courts under the U.S. Supreme Court and finding two cases in favor of the search and one against, the case finally went to the United States Supreme Court where the case was debated. The court found that the Fourth Amendment does apply to school searches in which school officials act as state agents enforcing school policies and state statues (Raskin 127). Lamorte explains how schools are trying to establish the “proper balance between an individual student’s right to Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and the duty of the school officials to provide all students with a safe and secure school environment” (Lamorte 136).
With this balance in mind, the Supreme Court also found that search warrants do not need to be obtained by school officials prior to a student search. This may make it easier and faster for schools to secure a safe environment. They also found that...