More Legal Guidance on Strip Searches

Last Updated: July 18, 2009

This article appeared in the July 2009 Rural Policy Matters.

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Another U.S. Supreme Court decision clarifies that school officials must continue to adhere to the “reasonableness” standard when searching students and that a strip search for pain relief medication does not meet that standard. In the case at bar, a school administrator ordered a 13-year-old student to undress and shake out her underwear to demonstrate she was not hiding pills.
School officials have to meet the reasonableness standard under the 4th amendment protection against search and seizure. Reasonableness is a relatively low standard and students are judged not to have high expectations of privacy at school. The police standard of “probable cause” is much higher.
In Court decision protected the immunity of the implicated school officials from suit because of previous lower court decisions on the subject that could have produced doubt about how to proceed in the situation.
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Related Tags: All States, Federal Policy, Youth