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Name: In re K.S.
Case #: A124698
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 03/25/2010

A reasonableness standard, rather than the probable cause standard, applies to a search by a school official even if the school search is done based on information from police and in their presence. A confidential informant who was considered reliable gave an officer a tip about K.S., a high school student. The tip was passed on to another officer who was the resource officer at the high school who then relayed the information to the vice principal. The vice principal had two officers accompany her for her comfort and safety while she conducted a search of his P.E. locker and found suspected Ecstasy which became the subject of a delinquency petition. A motion to suppress the evidence was denied. New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985) 469 U.S. 325, 341 held the search of students by school officials were justified if reasonable even if there was no search warrant and probable cause did not exist. There are competing interests. The Fourth Amendment applies to searches of students conducted by school officials but that protection must be balanced against the need to preserve order and the educational environment. T.L.O. held that the legality of a student search should depend on the reasonableness under all the surrounding circumstances. In this case, the police officer’s role was subordinate to that of the vice principal who made the decision whether or not to conduct the search. The law enforcement presence does not change the standard because it was the school official who made the decision to search and it was designed to protect the safety of the school.