3230P Procedure - Student Privacy and Searches

Searches of Students and Their Property
A student is subject to search by district staff if reasonable grounds exist to suspect that evidence of a violation of the law or school rules will be uncovered. School staff shall report a student's suspicious activity to the principal prior to initiating a search, except in emergency situations. A search is required when there are reasonable grounds to suspect a student has a firearm on school grounds, transportation, or at school events.
Establishing Reasonable Grounds
The following review of the basis for the search should occur before conducting a search:
  1. Identify 1) the student's suspicious conduct, behavior, or activity; 2) the source of the information; and 3) the reliability of the source of such information.
  2. If suspicion could be confirmed, would such conduct be a violation of the law or school rules?
  3. Is the student likely to possess or have concealed any item, material, or substance which is itself prohibited or which would be evidence of a violation of the law or a school rule?
Conducting the Search
If the principal or his/her designee determines that reasonable grounds exist to search a student's clothing, personal effects, desk, locker, assigned storage area, or automobile, the search shall be conducted as follows:
  1. If evidence of criminal activity is suspected to be present and prosecution by civil authorities will be recommended if confirmed by the search, law enforcement officials will be consulted regarding the appropriateness of a search by a law enforcement officer.
  2. If evidence of violation of a school rule is suspected and, if confirmed by the search, will be handled solely as a student discipline action, the principal or designee will proceed the search by asking the student to remove all items from pockets, purses, handbags, backpacks, gym bags, etc.
  3. If the student refuses to cooperate in a personal search, the student should be held until the student's parent or guardian is available to consent to the search. If a parent or guardian cannot be reached in a reasonable time, the principal may conduct the search without the student's consent.
  4. If there is to be a physical search of the student or the student’s personal affects, the search will be conducted with a partner with at least one employee being of the same sex as the student.
  5. Except in situations where a student poses a threat to the safety of another person (e.g., where a belligerent student is suspected of possessing a weapon), the use of force shall be avoided in conducting a personal search of a student.
  6. Evidence seized which is in violation of the law will be turned over to legal authorities.
Locker Searches
Lockers, desks, and storage areas are the property of the school district. When assigned a locker, desk, or storage area, a student shall be responsible for its proper care. A student may be subject to a fine for any willful damage to school property. Students are encouraged to keep their assigned lockers closed and locked.
A student's locker, desk, or storage area may be searched by district staff if reasonable grounds exist to suspect that evidence of a violation of the law or school rules will be uncovered. School staff shall report a student's suspicious activity to the principal prior to initiating a search, except in emergency situations when the risk of harm to students or staff demands immediate action.
Building principals should refer to these procedures for conducting searches of students and their property for guidance in establishing whether a search is reasonable under the circumstances. Principals may search all lockers, desks, or storage areas without prior notice given to students and without reasonable suspicion that the search will yield evidence of any particular student's violation of the law or school rules.
Administrative inspections or health and welfare inspections may be conducted at any time for the purpose of locating misplaced library books, textbooks, or other school property, or to ensure that all lockers, desks, or storage areas are being kept clean and free from potential health or safety hazards. Periodic inspections of lockers will reinforce the district's ownership of lockers and the minimal expectation of privacy students have in the contents of their lockers.
During a search of all student lockers, if the school official conducting the search discovers any container within the locker which may conceal contraband, the container may be searched according to district procedures governing searches of students and their property. A “container” for the purpose of this policy may include, but is not limited to, an article of clothing, a handbag, purse, backpack, gym bag, or any other item in which contraband material may be concealed.
Vehicle Searches
Motor vehicles that are driven by students and parked on school property are subject to being searched when school officials have a reasonable suspicion that the vehicle contains contraband or other evidence of a violation of law or school rules. For purposes of this procedure, “school property” includes any property the district owns, leases, or otherwise occupies by permission of the owner, or any property on which the district has been granted the temporary or permanent right of supervision or control by the owner.
Students who refuse to cooperate with a school search may be referred to law enforcement authorities and/or be subject to discipline.
Handling of Evidence
Weapons, firearms, explosive substances, possessions reasonably determined to be a threat to the safety and security of others, and substances possessed illegally may be seized by school authorities. Any contraband seized is to be properly identified, labeled, and placed in a secure area. The administrator in charge will personally deliver contraband that has been seized to law enforcement personnel.
Canine Searches
Periodically, the high schools and middle schools will work cooperatively with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department's canine unit or other qualified outside agencies (e.g., Interquest Detection Canines) to conduct generalized searches of student lockers, cars in the parking lots, communal areas, gym areas, school grounds, and classrooms. No direct contact with individual students will occur during canine searches.
Date: 6/18/02
Revised: 10/14/03; 10/14/08; 3/10/09; 12/10/13