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4th Amendment in High Schools

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Essay title: 4th Amendment in High Schools


March 7, 1980: two freshman girls in a New Jersey high school were caught smoking in the bathroom by a teacher. The teacher sent both girls to the principle’s office since smoking in the bathroom was a violation of a school rule. Both girls were questioned by the Assistant Vice Principle, Theodore Choplick. In response to questioning by Mr. Choplick, one of the girls admitted that she was smoking in the bathroom. However, the other girl, T.L.O. denied that she had been smoking in the bathroom and claimed that she did not smoke at all. Mr. Choplick demanded to see T.L.O.’s purse. As Mr. Choplick opened the purse, the pack of cigarettes was clearly visible. As he reached into the purse for the cigarettes, he noticed a package of cigarette rolling papers. In Mr. Choplick’s experience, high school students possessing rolling papers was a correlation to the use of marijuana. He then proceeded to search the purse intently to yield more evidence of drug use. His search exposed a tiny amount of marijuana, a pipe, a number of empty plastic bags, an extensive amount of money, a list of people who owed T.L.O. money, and two letters that implicated her for dealing marijuana. Mr. Choplick notified the police and T.L.O.’s mother and turned in all the evidence he found through his investigation. At the police station T.L.O. confessed to selling marijuana to high school students. On the basis of the confession and the evidence seized, the State brought delinquency charges against T.L.O. T.L.O. argued that the search of her purse violated her fourth amendment rights and the evidence seized should not be admissible in court because it was an unlawful search. Was Mr. Choplick’s search of T.L.O.’s purse a violation of her fourth amendment rights? Do student even possess their constitutional rights in a school setting? With the growing concern of drug use and violence in our schools, should safety be our number one priority? Is illicit drug use or violence even a concern or just a figment of our imagination? After the Columbine High School massacre, every high school in American was on its tiptoes. Some high schools in America have taken drastic measures to curb school violence and drug use. Metal detectors, police dogs, intrusive searches, drug testing on students participating in extra curricular activities, and placement of police officers in the school environment have been some of the methods used. Do these methods force our schools to become more prison like and treat each student as a suspect? As popular culture takes over the minds of our students, school administration in conjunction with law enforcement are desperately seeking solutions to decrease delinquent behavior. MySpace which is known to mature individuals as another way of keeping in touch with friends and reconnecting with old friends has become somewhat of a breeding ground for trash talking high school students. These on going battles often get played out in fights on school property. Another effect popular culture has on students is the style of clothing. Is there a correlation to dress code and school safety? Does the school at in place of the parent and should the administration be allowed to search students under the reasonable suspicion standard? This paper seeks to examine if the right to search students in a school setting violates the fourth amendment and is school safety compromised if it is. Alameda High School is the central focus of examination because that is where I was interning at.

Literature Review:

Carroll, Jamuna., ed. Students’ Rights. Farmington Hills: Thomson Gale, 2005

Charles Haynes’ major claim in his article, School Dress Codes Limit Students’ Freedom of Expression is that while allowing students to wear offensive clothing in school may create an environment of conflict and diversity, such controversy is vital to any free society. His article focuses more on students wearing offensive t-shirts rather then the way students are dressing; for example, sagging of the jeans, low cut shirts on girls, short mini skirts, grills, chains, etc. I do agree that dress codes do limit students’ freedom of expression. I also agree with the decision the U.S. Supreme Court made in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District that “school officials many not ban student expression just because they don’t like it-or because they think it might cause conflict. The school must have evidence that the student expression would lead to either (a) a substantial disruption of the school environment, or (b) an invasion of the rights of others.” The author has not done his own field research.

Stephen Daniels’ major claim in his article, School Dress Codes Are Necessary and Constitutional is that instituting a dress code

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