Searches of Students and Their Property
A student is subject to search by district staff if reasonable grounds exist to suspect that evidence of a violation of the law or school rules will be uncovered. School staff will report a student’s suspicious activity to the principal prior to initiating a search, except in emergency situations. A search is required when there are reasonable grounds to suspect a student has a firearm on school grounds, transportation or at school events.
A. Establishing reasonable grounds.
The following review of the basis for the search should occur before conducting a search:
- Identify: a) the student’s suspicious conduct, behavior or activity; b) the source of the information; and c) the reliability of the source of such information.
- If suspicion could be confirmed, would such conduct be a violation of the law or school rules?
- Is the student likely to possess or have concealed any item, material or substance which is itself prohibited or which would be evidence of a violation of the law or a school rule?
B. Conducting the search.
If the principal or designee determines that reasonable grounds exist to search a student’s clothing, personal effects, desk, locker, assigned storage area or automobile, the search will be conducted as follows:
- If evidence of criminal activity is suspected to be present and prosecution by civil authorities will be recommended if confirmed by the search, consult law enforcement officials regarding the appropriateness of a search by a law enforcement officer.
- If evidence of violation of a school rule is suspected and if confirmed by the search will be handled solely as a student discipline action, proceed to search by asking the student to remove all items from pockets, purses, handbags, backpacks, gym bags, etc.
- If the student refuses to cooperate in a personal search, the student should be held until the student’s parent or guardian is available to consent to the search. If a parent or guardian cannot be reached in a reasonable time, the principal may conduct the search without the student’s consent.
Searches of Lockers and Other District Property
Lockers, desks and storage areas are the property of the school district. The term “storage area” refers to both physical areas provided by the district and to digital storage maintained using district resources, including but not limited to the district’s network, disk space, bandwidth, email, internet access, etc.
When assigned a locker, desk or storage area, a student will be responsible for its proper care. A student may be subject to a fine for any willful damage to school property. Students are encouraged to keep their assigned lockers closed and locked.
A student’s locker desk or storage area may be searched by district staff if reasonable grounds exist to suspect that evidence of a violation of the law or school rules will be uncovered. School staff will report a student’s suspicious activity to the principal prior to initiating a search, except in emergency situations when the risk of harm to students or staff demands immediate action.
Principals should refer to these procedures for conducting searches of students and their property for guidance in establishing whether a search is reasonable under the circumstances.
Principals may search all lockers, desks or storage areas without prior notice given to students and without reasonable suspicion that the search will yield evidence of any particular student’s violation of the law or school rules.
Administrative inspections or health and welfare inspections may be conducted at any time for the purpose of locating misplaced library books, textbooks or other school property, or to ensure that all lockers, desks or storage areas are being kept clean and free from potential health or safety hazards. Periodic inspections of lockers will reinforce the district’s ownership of lockers and the minimal expectation of privacy students have in the contents of their lockers.
During a search of all student lockers, if the school official conducting the search discovers any container within the locker which may conceal contraband, the container may be searched according to district procedures governing searches of students and their property. A “container” for the purpose of this policy may include, but is not limited to: an article of clothing, handbag, purse, backpack, gym bag or any other item in which contraband material may be concealed.
If there is reasonable, individualized suspicion that a student has used a cell phone in a manner that violates the law or school rules, the school administrator may search the device for evidence. The search must be reasonable in scope and must be limited to content that is reasonably necessary to confirm or dispel the suspicion of wrongdoing. The search must stop once the suspicion has been confirmed or dispelled.