In 1980, in a New Jersey High School, a
teacher found a 14 year old student (identified in court
records by the initials "T.L.O.") smoking in the bathroom
and took her to the principal's office. The student denied
she'd been smoking and claimed that she didn't smoke at all.
The vice principal then searched her purse and found not
only a pack of cigarettes, but rolling papers, a small
amount of marijuana, a pipe, a large amount of cash, and an
index card with a list of student names and amount of money
owed T.L.O. This evidence was turned over to the Juvenile
Court and it prosecuted T.L.O. for drug dealing. T.L.O.
tried to have the evidence thrown out of court, claiming
that it was obtained by illegal search. She based her claim
on the 4th Amendment, which protects citizens against
"unreasonable search and seizure." She argued that the
school principal didn't have good reason to search her
purse, as there was no evidence that she had been smoking.
When a student is at school, school rules are
the law. They have the right to search a student's
possessions any time they decide it's necessary to
protect the rest of the students.
If this student wasn't involved in drug dealing
then she wouldn't have minded if the school
searched her purse.
It's okay for a school to search a student's
possessions in some situations.
This was an "unreasonable" search, so whatever
was found in the student's purse should not be used
as evidence against her.
This is a total outrage! A student should have
the freedom to carry anything in a purse, pocket,
or backpack. No nosy teacher or principal has the
right to pry into her belongings.
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November 19, 2005
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