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Can a school official search a student's locker?

UPDATED: February 20, 2013

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While the U.S. Constitution upholds the right to be safe from unreasonable searches and seizures, the standard for school searches is less rigid. The search is lawful if the school has a "reasonable suspicion" that a school rule has been violated. This means the search must be justified when made and reasonably related to the circumstances being investigated.

For example, a student is believed to have been smoking on campus, but denies it. A reasonable search can be made of the purse or backpack he or she was carrying at the time of the incident. His or her locker and pockets can also be legally searched. Courts will weigh a student's right to privacy against a school's need to obtain evidence of school rule violations and violations of the law. This reasonable suspicion standard has been upheld in challenges to locker, desk, and car searches.

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