Does the Fourth Amendment offer lesser protection to children than it does to adults?Public school children can be subjected to searches upon reasonable suspicion that they have broken a school...

Does the Fourth Amendment offer lesser protection to children than it does to adults?

Public school children can be subjected to searches upon reasonable suspicion that they have broken a school rule or violated a law.  The rule seems to emerge that persons under the age of eighteen have different protections under the Fourth Amendment than those recognized for adults.

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I agree with the observations made in the previous answer, but it does not state the real reason for why children have less protection than adults in the school setting.  The reason for this is not the fact that schools are a public setting.  Instead, it is because schools have a mission to educate children and to keep them safe while they are being educated.  Schools are given more latitude to search students because of this mission.  As the link below says,

Issues involving safety to all students may justify searches of students' personal property while on school premises.

Outside of a school setting, children do not have fewer rights to be free from searches and seizures.  In school, however, they do have less in the way of 4th Amendment protections than either they or adults would have out on the street.

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that the question is an appropriate one, but might need a bit more of guidance.  The issues of searches and seizures of property might be subject to more interpretation in a public school setting because there is a lesser scope of a right to privacy.  The public nature of the school setting allows the school broader latitude in conducting searches.  Naturally, those searches cannot be invasive and detrimental to the dignity of the child. However, if the court has ruled that there is "reasonable suspicion," then a school official is able to search a locker or the belongings of a student.  School officials are suggested to follow protocol, such as having the presence of another adult in order to ensure due process and fairness.  However, the court has ruled in cases such as New Jersey vs. T.L.O. that student searches require less of a burden for conducting said search and property seizure than can be afforded outside of the school setting.

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