Privacy vs. Safety
Over 85,000 crimes occur within our public school system each year. Does that give us the right to breach the Fourth Amendment which guards against unreasonable searches of our student’s personal property such as school lockers or backpacks?
A teacher friend told me a cute but sad story about one of her students. Last year, one of her first graders who had a huge crush on her, brought a very expensive ring from his mom’s jewelry collection to school. The boy planned to give the jewelry to his teacher as a gift. Of course the boy’s mother had no idea her son took the item as he thought she had lots of other pieces, so he didn’t think she would mind. Undergoing a bit of cold feet, the child decided to keep the ring in his locker until he was ready to present the gift to his teacher. In the course of just a couple of days, other students found out about the plan and unfortunately the ring went missing. Administration had to get involved after the son unwillingly told his mother about the incident. Since none of the students came forward, parents were called and the ring was finally turned in. Luckily, the decision to have lockers searched or not was never made since a student came forward with the ring.
In some cases, a crime or suspect of a crime can be a bit more serious than a stolen ring. In the situation where a child bragging about having a gun or drugs in his locker. Immediate action must be taken. After Columbine, school administrators and parents everywhere view security differently than before.
Fourth Amendment rights include guarding against unreasonable searches and seizures warranted by probable cause. What are your thoughts on the privacy rights of searching student’s lockers or backpacks? Should teachers be allowed to periodically check personal belongings of their students? And how does this impact the time and cost spent for personnel to conduct these searches?