Given that a student has a lessened expectation of privacy while at school, and that a "school administrator" may conduct a "reasonable search" of a student based on "reasonable suspicion", can that authority transfer to a police officer.
My facts: A principal requests a detective to come to the principal's office to investigate a student suspected of distributing a drug at school. When the detective arrives the principal requests the detective to search the backpack of the student. The detective does so and finds a single pill later determined to be Alprozolam (penalty group 3).
My question: There is very little in the police report to establish PC for the detective to do a search. However, based on T.L.O., the principal would have been well within the law to search the backpack. DOES THAT AUTHORITY EXTEND FROM THE PRINCIPAL TO THE DETECTIVE? I have looked in Dawson's book and found Wilcher v. State, 876 S.W.2d 466 which gets around this problem by identifying the police officer as a "school official' because the officer was an officer for the district. Here, that is not the case. The principal requested a police officer come from the PD and only then was the search executed.
Is this a problem, or, am I making something out of nothing? If anyone has insight or a reference to case law please let me know. Thanks for your help.
[This message was edited by D. Kosub on 03-18-02 at .]
Posts: 2 | Location: Wichita Falls, Texas, USA | Registered: March 18, 2002
Definately something to be concerned about. Other than Wilcher, try looking at Salazar v. Luty 761 f.supp. 45 - see if that helps any with your fact situation - but again, that case deals with officers hired by the school
does your school not have its own PD? i'd just argue the principal had the right to search and he simply directed another to do so in his place
Posts: 15 | Location: Houston, Texas, USA | Registered: December 04, 2001
I would check to see if there is a student code of conduct and if that student and his parents signed for their copy. Then I would see what the student code of conduct said. If it advised them that bringing something like this to school was prohibited and that the student might be subject to being searched, then I would argue that there was not a reasonable expectation of privacy (and therefore no constitutional protection)in that particular school situation.
I think the search is ok if the officer was searching only at the administrator's request and not on his own (because there was no pc that we know of). Police are trained in the search of bags to do so in a manner where they won't get poked or stabbed. The administrator was utilizing the officers training while maintaining control of the situation. If the police officer was acting at the direction of the school administrator, and not on his own, the search was an extension of the administrator's authority.
Posts: 3 | Location: San Antonio, TX 78216 | Registered: April 29, 2003