Reading, Writing, Frisking

How far can a school go in searching its students?

Adam Freedman
January 6, 2012

Page 3 of 3

However, in July 2008, the Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit caused a sensation (or, at least, what passes for a sensation in legal circles) by holding that the Safford School District of Arizona had violated the Fourth Amendment by ordering a strip search of a 13-year-old girl -- even though the school had reason to suspect that that student was distributing prescription medications to other students.

And now the Safford case is going up to the Supreme Court – as I write this, the case has yet to be decided. If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s decision, schools may be required to meet the more stringent “probable cause” standard for student searches. And in some cases, students would even be able to sue school administrators for money damages – and that certainly will make schools think twice before the old stop-and-frisk. Pam and Karen: stay tuned!

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