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New Jersey v. T.L.O.

A young student in a New Jersey highschool, “T.L.O.” otherwise known as Terry Lee Owens, was found with drugs in her purse. The administrator who caught T.L.O., caught her and her friend smoking cigarettes in the school bathroom. Suspicions arose when T.L.O. refused to admit to the allegations, which led him to search her purse.

Only being fourteen years of age, Terry was taken to juvenile court after she confessed to selling marijuana at the police station. This case was taken to the supreme court due to her Fourth Amendment rights, that state, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” T.L.O.’s lawyer argued that her Fourth Amendment rights had been obscured when her things were being looked through by administrators.

This case became a significant dispute because some argued that a student has a right to privacy within their personal belongings, following the Fourth amendment, while others argued that under a school supervision they have a right to check students personal items to ensure a safe environment to validate the safety of the school and other students.

The court ultimately ruled her as guilty, with a 6-3 vote, they concluded that the search of T.L.O. 's purse did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Ultimately, for student’s across America, the court claimed that their right against unreasonable search and seizure in schools. This was the first case to publically draw the line between a student’s need for privacy over a school’s need to maintain an environment for teaching.

The right in public schools for students was overruled by the administrators, and this had caused a nation wide impact for children of many ages, as well as teachers and what they can and can not do over a time of suspicion caused by any acts within school grounds.

Despite this, the ruling mostly pertains to only high school students who are only partially protected from illegal search and seizures. In recent years, the effectiveness of this case has become more relevant. With easier exposure to drugs such as vapes, marrjuana, and even more illegal substances like cocaine, methamphetamines, etc, have reached kids as young as ten or lower.

Edited by Chole Mansola

Image:  'What's in my bag' by Valerie Renee licensed by CC BY 4.0 DEED

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