We will focus
the application of the Fourth Amendment in the specific context of
searches. In this context, several issues will be raised in
v T. L. O. (1985)
addresses the issue of whether a
by a school official is a "search" at all for Fourth Amendment
It also considers whether the standard of probable cause that applies
the cases of criminal standards should be modified to reflect the
circumstances of public education and the relationship between school
and students. The Court concludes that searches by school
officials are governed by the Fourth Amendment, but adopts a lower
standard for searches than it applies in the criminal context.
Specifically, the Court only requires officials to have something like
a moderate chance of finding evidence of wrongdoing. In T. L. O.,
the Court found that standard met. In Safford v Redding (2009), however,
the Court found that Arizona school officials went too far in
strip-searching a 13-year-old student who they believed might have
provided ibuprofen to another student. Given the intrusiveness of
the search and the relatively low threat posed, the search was
unreasonable and a violation of the Fourth Amendment, according to
eight members of the Court. Justice Thomas dissented.
Unlike the T.
L. O. and Safford cases,
case considers the constitutionality of across-the-board searches not
on individualized suspicion. The policy in question in Veronia
is required urine-testing of junior high football players. How
to the Court's decision are the specific facts of that case? (It is
noting that the Court in the 1997 case of Chandler v. Miller,
an 8-1 vote, ruled that Georgia's policy of drug-testing candidates for
state offices violated the Fourth Amendment.)
In 2002, the Supreme Court considered a case challenging a Tecumseh, Oklahoma policy of drug-testing all high high school students who participate in extracurricular activities. Parents of Lindsey Earls sued when school officials forced Lindsey to provide a urine sample before she sang in the high school choir and participated on an academic quiz team. Lindsey (who is now a student at Dartmouth) described the experience as "horrible--someone would stand outside the bathroom stall and listen." The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Tecumseh policy was unreasonable, failing to meet the "special needs" requirement of Vernonia. The Court, by a 5 to 4 vote reversed the 10th Circuit and upheld the school's drug testing policy. A concurring opinion suggested that a different result might be reached if a school were to extend its mandatory drug testing to include all students.
court decision, see B. C. v Plumas Unified School District (9th
2. How relevant to the Court's analysis in Vernonia is the age of the students tested? Could a university insist upon drug testing athletes? An elementary school?
3. How much evidence of drug use among students is necessary to establish a policy like Vernonia's?
4. Is the "reasonable suspicion" test of T.L.O. easier for school officials to administer than a "probable cuase" standard?
5. Under the facts of T. L. O., could a probable cause standard have been met?
6. What do you think of Justice Brennan's suggestion that the presence of rolling papers provides scant evidence of drug use?
7. Did the facts that seemed so important to the Court in Vernonia (lack of privacy among athletes, safety concerns relating to athletes and drug use, and the degree of the drug problem among athletes) seem significant to the majority in its decision in the Earls case? Is this surprising?
8. The Court in Safford concluded it was unreasonable to strip search a 13-year-old girl based on an uncorrobated tip that she had provided a non-prescription painkiller (ibuprofen) to other students. Would it have been reasonable to conduct a strip search if it was believed that the student had provided cocaine to another student?