Guidelines for Student Searches

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The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides: "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 particulalrly describing the place to be saerched, and the persons or things to be seized." The courts have held that public school students have a right to privacy in school pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, but the right is not absolute. Student privacy rights cannot be invaded by school personnel unless the intrusion can be justified based on a reasonable suspicion that a student is engaged in a violation of school rules or law. Reasonable suspicion is a less rigorous standard than the requirement of probable cause necessary for law enforcement to secure a warrant. However, student freedom from unreasonable search and seizure must be balanced against the need for school officials to maintain order and discipline and to protect the health and welfare of the school community.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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