Search of student returning to campus legal
A Southern California high school has a policy authorizing the search of students who go off-campus during the school day. Parking lots and athletic fields are also considered out-of-bounds triggering a possible search.
Sean A. was present for some classes but missed others. When seen returning to campus, the assistant principal required him to empty his pockets. Sean was carrying a plastic bag with 44 Ecstasy pills. He was found guilty of possessing a controlled substance for sale and placed on probation.
Sean appealed the case and in December, 2010 the California Court of Appeals upheld the conviction. Sean argued that the rule discriminated against students who left campus and returned as opposed to those who came in the morning and didn’t leave until the end of the school day. In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled as follows: “Given the general applicaton of the policy to all students engaged in a form of rule violation that can easily lend itself to the introduction of drugs or weapons into the school environment, we conclude that further individualized suspicion was not required.” *
The court relied on two U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving 8th grade student James Acton of Oregon and high school student Lindsay Earls of Oklahoma in holding that the search did not violate the Fourth Amendment as an unreasonable search.
*In re Sean A., 191 Cal.App.4th 182 (California 12/22/10).