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On November 5, 2003, concern regarding suspected drug activity led to a massive police search of Stratford High School in the Berkeley School District, north of Charleston, South Carolina. (See Police, School District Defend Drug Raid, available at Fourteen police officers assumed strategic positions inside and outside the school. Accompanied by a drug-sniffing clog, officers. Some with guns drawn, secured a school hallway and ordered more than I 00 students to get on their knees and face the wall, handcuffing at least 12 who failed to immediately obey the police orders. Alerted by the clog. police physically searched students, but turned up no drugs. This incident illustrates issues raised by countless other school searches that are the result of formal communication and cooperation between schools and police departments.

It is evident that the ever more complex relationship between schools and law enforcement requires revision to the doctrine announced in the 1985 Supreme Court decision in New Jersey v. T.L.O.. 469 U.S. 325 (1985), allowing searches of students at school based on a reasonable suspicion of a violation of a law or a school rule. Developments since then undermine the basic assumption of that holding – that schools and law enforcement are fully separate institutions. Increased police presence in schools, formalized school and state policies requiring schools to routinely share information with the courts, and other developments should motivate lawyers to demand a reexamination of T.L.O. This essay argues that recent changes in security and discipline practices in public schools require modifications to the "special needs" doctrine regarding searches and seizures in schools, and it presents an argument that lawyers for children in juvenile or adult criminal court proceedings should challenge that doctrine.


Juvenile Law | Law | Law Enforcement and Corrections


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