A legal analysis of the Fourth Amendment rights of K--12 public school students in Tennessee: Are the protections adequate?

Philippa Teresa Thompson, Tennessee State University

Abstract

This study uses legal analysis to examine the adequacy of statutory protections against unreasonable searches and seizures guaranteed to Tennessee K–12 public school students. Four questions were researched: (1) How are the Fourth Amendment rights of K–12 public school students defined by the U.S. Supreme Court through their ruling in New Jersey v. T.L.O., (1985)? (2) How have these rights been affected by the Court's ruling in Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton, (1995)? (3) Does Tennessee statutory law, in conjunction with federal law, adequately protect Tennessee K–12 public school students? and (4) What are some general guidelines educators can follow when conducting searches of K–12 public school students? The results of this study were: (a) public school officials act as agents of the state when conducting student search actions; (b) in loco parentis is insufficient as a defense against litigation arising from student search actions; (c) a standard of reasonableness was created for student search actions conducted by educators; (d) a two-prong determination test was devised for the reasonableness standard; (e) constitutional protections against general searches without individualized suspicion were narrowed by the Acton ruling; (f) Tennessee statutory law, in conjunction with federal law, does offer adequate protections against unreasonable searches and seizures to K–12 students; (g) a five-point formula (PEARS—prevalence, exigency, age/sex, reliability, school history) was constructed to assist educators in determining the potential reasonableness of a student search action. ^

Subject Area

Law|Education, Administration

Recommended Citation

Philippa Teresa Thompson, "A legal analysis of the Fourth Amendment rights of K--12 public school students in Tennessee: Are the protections adequate?" (2000). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3007623.
http://digitalscholarship.tnstate.edu/dissertations/AAI3007623

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