Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Strip-Searching Students - Constitutional?

A week from today, on April 21, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that asks them to consider what limits school officials face in enforcing zero-tolerance policies for drugs and violence. The case, Safford Unified School District v. Redding, No. 08-479, is on appeal after a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an Arizona school had violated an eighth grader’s right to freedom from unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment when the school nurse and a secretary strip-searched the girl because an Assistant Principal suspected her of having prescription-strength ibuprofen pills with her in school.

Teaching Current Events with the Constitution: This is an opportune moment for teachers to review precedent on the matter of students’ rights in school.

  1. Students should read the 1985 New Jersey v. T.L.O. decision, in which the Court found that school officials acted constitutionally in searching a student’s purse without warrant or probable cause as long as their suspicions were reasonable.
  2. Students should then make predictions about how the Roberts Court will rule in the Safford case.

Writing Prompt: Should students expect their constitutional rights to be protected to the same degree inside and outside of school?

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