Public School Law: Student Search and Seizure in K-12 Public Schools

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Virginia Tech

School officials are constantly challenged to perform a myriad of duties in an extremely complex and demanding job with numerous responsibilities. They are expected to work with a variety of students, faculty and parents under difficult circumstances. "Faced with multiple needs, with the necessity of making fast decisions in an atmosphere of fragmented time, administrators are liable for everything they do." School administrators need to understand the rights guaranteed to students by the Fourth Amendment and how it applies to the school setting. This document will provide an overview of student search and seizure in kindergarten to 12th grade (K-12) public schools in a non-traditional dissertation (non-experimental design) format by providing an historical review of the relevant case law. Specifically, based upon legal research, it will review relevant Supreme Court cases, post-New Jersey v. T.L.O. federal, Pennsylvania and other state court cases related to search and seizure in K-12 public schools. The conclusion and summary will provide answers to the guiding questions, provide a conceptual model, outline what is a reasonable search, and provide a short practical school law exercise to test the reader's understanding of search and seizure in public schools.

Student Discipline, Search and Seizure, School Law, Student Rights, Fourth Amendment