Georgia School Case Sheds Light on Right

School, sheriff have limits on ability to search

Sarah Sault and Margaret O'Brien

Last spring at Worth County High School, in Georgia, the Sheriff’s Office searched all 900 students on campus looking for drugs.

The search, in which students were forced to hand over their cells phones and then frisked, did not uncover any drugs. But it has resulted in legal action–against the Sheriff’s office.

Many students said that they were inappropriately groped while being searched by the deputies. Their families in October filed a federal civil suit of $3 million, and at least one deputy is facing charges of sexual battery, false imprisonment, and violation of oath of office.

While the case in Georgia is extreme, it raises questions for students on any high school campus. What are students’ rights on campus?

And as the U.S. supreme court once declared, students do not, “shed their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse door.”

However, school administrators do reserve the ability to restrict the rights of those within their schools.

Vice Principal Greg Snyder said that students do have rights, but some rights are limited because they are minors and more so, because school has a responsibility to maintain safety and a good learning environments.

“Students under the age of 18 are protected under rights to privacy, and things like that,” said Snyder. “They don’t however have rights to ownership of belongings.”

On school campuses, students do not have the right to belongings. Anything on a school campus is property of that campus, and can be searched by school officials if there is reasonable suspicion.