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Name: In re J.D.
Case #: A138584
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/15/2014

School security officers did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they searched the locker of a student, finding a gun, during their investigation of a shooting by another student. School security officers Johnson and Sanders were told by a student that T.H., who was enrolled in the school, shot another person on a bus the previous day. Police were summoned. Based on information that students often hide contraband in other students’ lockers, a locker which T.H. “hung around” was searched but no gun was found. A school security officer searched the locker next to the one initially searched and found a backpack belonging to J.D., which contained a sawed-off shotgun. After J.D.’s motion to suppress was denied, the juvenile court sustained an allegation that he possessed a gun in a school zone. Held: Affirmed. The special need for immediate response to a threat to school children justifies exempting school searches from the warrant and probable cause requirements. The need for safety must be balanced against the student’s privacy interests. The validity of a school search depends on the reasonableness, under all of the circumstances, of the intrusion. Here, officers received a report that T.H. shot a person after school the previous day. In response, they searched to determine whether T.H. was on campus with a gun. They reasonably searched lockers in which T.H. may have stowed weapons. The fact that J.D. rather than T.H. had stored a gun in the locker did not undermine the validity of the search.