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Random Student Locker Searches without Permission

Updated on July 3, 2012

“The Supreme Court early on decided that need by teachers and administrators to maintain order outweighs the privacy interests of students in a case called New Jersey v. TLO. But that does not mean that school officials can just search anybody at anytime. School searches are only justified according to the Supreme Court “when there are seasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of school” (Niranjan Thiagarajah, 2006).

As an educator it is my right and my job to make sure that my student’s and the student body are to feel safe in their environment. Some student’s may feel that searching their lockers violates some sort of law, but if the school feels the need to do so, they would only search lockers if there is anything suspicious going on. I do think that is fair to infringe their right’s for the sake of the learning environment, because if their has been word around campus that a student is selling any paraphernalia out of his or her locker then the school has every right to do a random locker search.

When I was in high school, someone had gone to the principal and had told them that I had brought drugs onto the school campus. In Hawaii, we do not have school lockers because all the campuses are all outdoors. The campus security came to my class and escorted me to the principal’s office; I guess this was to make sure that I did not throw anything into the bushes. When I go into the office I was greeted by the principal and the vice principal (who by which was a female). I was told why I was in the office, and that I now had to empty out my belongings so that they could search everything. They of course did not find anything because I was not that child. The only thing that was found in my backpack was medication for a really bad cough that I had at the time, and I assumed that my classmates thought I was hiding something in there.

There are many situations where student’s rights may override the teacher’s responsibility. If in the event a young lady was called into questioning and her personal items needed to be searched, the school cannot search the young lady in questioning without a female educator present in the search. If in the event this happens, the family can actually sue the school district or take the school district to court and the young lady say’s that a male educator searched her belongings without a female educator present. This also goes for male student’s who are in questioning also.

Locker searches are done all the time no matter what state you are in. Usually when there is a random locker search the school will have its student body stand next to there locker at the time the search is being conducted. The most common reason for a locker search is when the school has information about students in violation of school rules. For instance, the school can receive information that a student might be carrying an illegal weapon, drugs, paraphernalia, etc. It really is a shake up for the school, and most of the time student’s do fight it and say that they are not allowed to do that. In my own opinion, the lockers are on school property and can be searched even without cause.

“If a search was conducted illegally, then the contents of the search may be suppressed in a criminal action. Student’s only having this right with respect to Criminal prosecutions. Whereas an American adult may obey the laws of the government, the student must obey the laws of the school board” (Niranjan Thiagarajah, 2006). In terms of random searches here is a great example of what was found on a student, how the search was conducted illegally, and what the school did in terms of disciplinary actions. “In Gordon v. Santa Ana Unified School District, marijuana was found in an illegal search ofa student’s pocket by the principal. After a board hearing, the student was suspended from school for one year. Although the search was found to be illegal by the courts and the student did not face criminal prosecution, he could not suppress the evidence at the school board hearing. As such, his suspension was upheld” (Niranjan Thiagarajah, 2006)


Niranjan Thiagarajah. (2006). School Lockers: What can a Teacher Search? Retrieved from, on March 28, 2010


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    • marlynpumphrey profile image

      Marlyn Munoz 5 years ago from Honolulu, HI

      spbarton21: Your very welcome. I think once children/students realize that there lockers are public property maybe they would stop bringing paraphernalia into the schools. And like you said if you have nothing to hide than there is nothing to worry about. Thanks for reading my hub!

    • spbarton21 profile image

      spbarton21 5 years ago from North Charleston

      I agree with you wholeheartedly that students don't have privacy when it comes to their lockers. They should know that they shouldn't bring anything illegal to school a place where they should be concentrating on their education. I went to boarding school and while there our rooms were searched twice and the search was conducted with myself, a dorm parent, and another student present. Knowing I had nothing to hide I wasn't upset or angry with the school it was the other students that I knew that had contraband in their room that I was upset and angry with. Thanks for the Hub!!!