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Bill of Rights Institute Badge

Written by olsonaplc-3a0

School: Sioux Central
Class: Olson:APLC
Grade: 11th

There is a huge difference between a school having the right to search a student’s backpack and a school having the right to search a student’s phone. A student’s backpack is solely intended for school purposes, while a student’s phone is privately owned and not used for school purposes.

The question being asked involves having reasonable suspicion that a student is communicating with someone else (whether it be with another student or not) about selling drugs. A school should still not have the right under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution to search that particular student’s phone. This Amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” If a school authority is truly and reasonably suspicious that a student is using their cell phone or other electronic device during school hours to communicate with another person about selling drugs, said school authority should contact a higher authority (i.e., the police) and obtain a proper warrant to seize and search the student’s device. The Fourth Amendment protects such searches and seizures from happening without “probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation”, and that right should not be violated.

On the other hand, if a school authority is suspicious of a student possibly having illegal drugs in their backpack during school, that is a completely different story. A student’s backpack is intended for school purposes. They are full of books, papers, and other necessary supplies for a student’s school day. Given that students’ backpacks are more than likely not a school’s property, it is a much closer relation to school than a student’s phone or other electronic device would be. If a school authority intends to seize and/or search a student’s backpack, however, the student should be fairly warned and informed of the reasons of the suspicions and the search and seizure. A seizure and/or search of anything belonging to a student should not be done in a sneaky way, without the student’s knowledge, or without reasonable and probable cause.

Any searches involving the suspicion of a school authority and a student should be executed during school hours. If a school authority sees a student outside of school hours with their backpack and for some reason suspect they may have drugs in said backpack, they should not be allowed to seize and search that student’s backpack. The authority figure should be required to contact police and have the police handle the situation rather than taking it into their own hands.

All in all, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, like the rest of the Amendments, should be taken very seriously. Even in schools and to minors and young adults, rights are rights and it is only fair for all Amendments to be active for all Americans in every facet of life.


This post has been awarded the
Bill of Rights Institute Badge (300 points)

Harlan Institute Feedback: Good job!