This Article provides a legal, empirical, and normative analysis of an intrusive search practice used by schools officials to prevent school crime: random, suspicionless searches of students’ belongings. First, it argues that these searches are not permitted under the Fourth Amendment unless schools have particularized evidence of a weapons or substance problem in their schools. Second, it provides normative considerations against implementing strict security measures in schools, especially when they are applied disproportionately on minority students. Third, drawing on recent restricted data from the U.S. Department of Education’s School Survey on Crime and Safety, it provides empirical findings that raise concerns that some public schools may be conducting unconstitutional searches of students’ belongings. In addition, it shows that these potentially unconstitutional searches are more likely to take place in schools with higher minority populations than in schools with lower minority populations. Finally, it argues that the Supreme Court should resolve any ambiguity in its jurisprudence by expressly requiring school officials to have particularized, objective evidence of a substance abuse or weapons problem before permitting these schools to perform these intrusive searches.
Jason P. Nance, Random, Suspicionless Searches of Public School Students’ Belongings: A Legal, Empirical, and Normative Analysis, 84 U. Colo. L. Rev. 367 (2013), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/285