Published on March 9, 2014
New Jersey v. TLO Legal Summary Enrichment: New Jersey v. TLO Legal Summary Enrichment EDL 585 Leadership in a Legal Culture Team 1 Christine Jung (Translator to Practice: 15-17) Jenn Johnston (Appellate Process Reporter: 5-9) Diana Macias (Supreme Court Analyst: 10-14) Elaine Quan (Facilitator, Developer of the Case: 1-4) What is New Jersey v. TLO about?: What is New Jersey v. TLO about? Argued March 28, 1984 Reargued October 2, 1984 Decided January 15, 1985 It is a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court addressing the constitutionality of a search of a public high school student for contraband after she was caught smoking. New Jersey v. TLO Facts: New Jersey v. TLO Facts Synopsis of Rule of Law “School officials need not obtain a warrant before searching a student who is under their authority” Issue What is the appropriate “standard for assessing the legality of searches conducted by public school officials and the application of that standard to the facts of this case[?]” Discussion Illustrates instance where the warrant requirement doesn’t apply due to the uniqueness of the situation involved Roadmap of Occurrences leading to Judicial Review: Roadmap of Occurrences leading to Judicial Review Fourth Amendment: Fourth Amendment Background: The Fourth Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights that states that search & seizure of personal property must be done with a warrant and supported by probable cause The violation of the Fourth Amendment was in question in this case Appellate Process: Overview: Appellate Process: Overview The divided Appellate Division agreed with the court’s findings, stating there was no violation of T.L.O.’s property T.L.O. appealed the Fourth Amendment ruling Supreme Court reversed the judgment of Appellate Division Appellate Process: Beginning: Appellate Process: Beginning New Jersey Supreme Court agreed with lower courts that the school officials had the right to search T.L.O.’s purse school officials have the right if they believe a student is in possession of illegal activity However , Supreme Court did not think vice-principal had right to search purse without evidence of her smoking Appellate Process: Middle : Appellate Process: Middle The question of violation of the Fourth Amendment continues to arise in courts Most frequently argued case was that T.L.O.’s rights were violated because principal had no reason to believe there was anything illegal in her purse Vice-Principal was told from the eyewitness, the teacher, that T.L.O. was smoking in restroom Courts argue he had no reason to believe there was evidence of cigarettes in her purse Conclusion was that vice-principal did not act unreasonably Appellate Process: End : Appellate Process: End Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the school official’s search did not violate T.L.O.’s Fourth Amendment rights Majority of courts who have addressed the Fourth Amendment in schools have agreed with Supreme Court due to the fact that school officials must protect their students and keep order in schools by enforcing school rules Conclusion : “the Fourth Amendment applies to searches conducted by school authorities, but the special needs of the school environment require assessment of the legality of such searches against a standard less exacting than that of probable cause...they are supported by a reasonable suspicion that the search will uncover evidence of an infraction of school disciplinary rules or a violation of the law ” Summary of Supreme Court Decision: Summary of Supreme Court Decision “ The rights of students must be balanced against the needs of the school setting.” The final vote was 6 to 3, in favor of New Jersey. Students in public schools have a constitutional right to privacy under the 4th Amendment and that school officials are bound by constitutional restrictions. But , the rights of children and adolescents are not the same as those of adults and that school officials have a responsibility to maintain the discipline necessary for education . Summary of Supreme Court Decision cont.: Summary of Supreme Court Decision cont. The court decided that the search did not violate the student’s amendment rights because “school officials may properly conduct a search of a student's person if the official has a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been…committed, or reasonable cause to believe that the search is necessary to maintain school discipline….” The assistant vice-principal's search was considered reasonable under this definition. Concurring opinion: Concurring opinion Some justices applauded the Court's ruling and sought to apply its logic to other student-search questions. Justice Blackmun wrote a concurring opinion: The elementary and secondary school setting presents a special need for flexibility justifying a departure from the balance struck by the Framers. . . . Education "is perhaps the most important function" of government, Brown v. Board of Education, (1954), and government has a heightened obligation to safeguard students whom it compels to attend school. The special need for an immediate response to behavior that threatens either the safety of schoolchildren and teachers or the educational process itself justifies the Court in excepting school searches from the warrant and probable-cause requirement, and in applying a standard determined by balancing the relevant interests. I agree with the standard the Court has announced, and with its application of the standard to the facts of this case. I therefore concur in its judgment. Dissenting Opinion: Dissenting Opinion Two justices wrote dissents decrying the erosion of Fourth Amendment protections implicit in it. Justice Brennan argued that the same probable cause standard that is applied outside of schools should be applied inside schools. The Fourth Amendment states that “the right of the people to be secure … against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.” According to Justice Brennan’s interpretation, the Fourth Amendment explains what it means by “unreasonable” by specifying that “no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause.” Thus, searches that take place without probable cause, including those based only on “reasonable suspicion,” are unreasonable, and violate the Fourth Amendment. Impact of Supreme Court Decision: Impact of Supreme Court Decision The Court's decision in New Jersey Vs. TLO would serve as a precedent in cases to come. In Bethel School District v. Fraser , 1986, the Court upheld school disciplinary action taken against a student who delivered a sexually explicit speech nominating a fellow student for elective office. Although the case dealt with 1st Amendment protections rather than those of the 4th Amendment, the Court based the decision on the following: “In New Jersey v. T.L.O . (1985)… we reaffirmed that the constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings.” In the 1990s, the T.L.O . decision was used a number of times in Supreme Court cases to allow the use of metal detectors and protective searches in school. Translator of Decision to Practice: Translator of Decision to Practice Student search can be a tool for maintaining safe schools, but school administrators must balance students’ individual rights with the school community’s need to ensure and maintain a safe learning environment. Translator of Decision to Practice: Translator of Decision to Practice School administrators are allowed to conduct searches of a student’s backpack, by following these rules: Following school district’s policy and procedures concerning student property searches. Asking yourself if you have “reasonable suspicion” to search the student in question. -” reasonable suspicion” means a school rule has been broken , or a student has committed or is in the p rocess of committing a crime Translator of Decision to Practice cont.: Translator of Decision to Practice cont. To avoid legal issues, have another school official act as a witness to the search. When searching a backpack, you must respect privacy as much as possible. Use good judgment and caution before attempting to search a student’s backpack. Contact the student’s parents informing them of the circumstances leading up to the search. Thank you for listening! : Thank you for listening!