The Search Of Students By School Officials By: Maria Andriano, Heather Farragher, Olivia Gerardi, Carly Guglielmin,Alessandro Mazza, Emilie Morgenstern, and Jean Wan
Summary Ballosingh, C., & Thorning, P. (2001). The search of students by school officials. Orbit, 32(2), 37- 41.As teachers, we are morally and legally obligated to provide a safe and securelearning environment for students; occasionally, this may include the removal ofobjects that interfere with that safety or security. However, how do we balanceour judgement of these two issues with students basic privacy rights?The article focuses on the case of R. v. M., which established legal precedenceallowing school officials to search a student based on "reasonable suspicion",versus the "reasonable grounds" as part of the Criminal Code. This has directimplications for teachers, who are now empowered by the law to conduct suchsearches (including those of the person), depending on the circumstances.The author was explicit to remind teachers that these searches are limited inboth application and execution, and are highly situational. A teachers bestsource of judgement is still their own.
Key Terms:(Carly & Maria)Searches and Seizures: The searching of desks, bags, lockers, emptying of pockets. Fore more seriousviolations, searches can include pat-downs and taking off articles of clothing.Canadas Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Specifically, section eight of Canadas Charter of Rights and Freedoms,which protects all citizens from unreasonable searches and seizueres by agents of the state.Reasonable Suspicion: Teachers and administrators can conduct searches based on reasonable suspicion. Thisis more flexible than reasonable ground. The source must be credible and can come from a student, colleague orobservations.Reasonable ground - Reasonable ground is more "firm" than reasonable suspicion. It is an accusation with evidence.Reasonable scope - The scope of the search must connect to the magnitude of the violation.Rights of Students - Students must not give up all of their privacy just because they are in a school setting. Limitsmust be placed on the scope and degree of the search.Needs of Schools - Schools are an increasingly dangerous place and teachers and administrators must protectchildren inside the school context.
Key Terms Contd:Search Criteria:There is a two-part procedure that the Supreme Court has mandated for searches. This procedure must be followedbefore a search can take place. This criteria sets limits on the scope of the search.1. Is the search reasonable at its inception?- There must be evidence that the student has committed a breach of school regulation or discipline. The source ofinformation must be credible. Teachers and school administrators must believe that a search of the studentpossessions would lead to further evidence of a breach of school regulation or discipline.2. Is The Scope of the Search Reasonable?- The extent of the search must be connected to the magnitude of the suspected violation. The search must beconducted in a sensitive and minimally intrusive manner. Factors must be considered such as the age and gender ofthe student and gender of those performing the search.Guidelines For Searches- When violations which are detrimental to establishing a climate conducive to learning are suspected, searches ofdesks, bags, lockers and emptying of pockets are permissible. Such violations include playing with a toy, smoking, andalcohol use. Pat-downs can be used when more serious violations occur, such as drug use and weapons.
Discussion: Key Terms and Search Criteria -I found the ‘toy’ part odd as well! I think it should be more specifically defined. Having worked with children in many different environments, toys can beDiscussion Point: defined and classified in many different ways, Copy and Paste LinkWhat is the meaning To Browser for a especially by children themselves. Maybe the wordof "Toys"? short video ‘distractions’ could have been included in describing the toys piece. - Olivia "It seems odd to have http://goanimate. something to do with toys com/videos/0RoFKA My Interpretation of the toy thing is standard. If you legally outlined - it is a little PHMI3w? hear a noise coming from a kids desk, you see their intense to me!" - Heather utm_source=linkshar hand under it, its creating a ruckus so you approach e and say "Give me the toy or search it yourself." Etc. If it is detrimental to a conducive learningWhen I have asked kids to environment it is the first level. The next level ishand me something that they drugs and safety.have been playing with, they - Jeansay "No, miss, thats myproperty." Then I havereconsidered. This happens alot in high-school. Legally, if it Perhaps it could be referring to electronic devices.is causing a disturbance, the Some schools still prohibit the use of electronicarticle says that the teacher devices. As educators, do we have the right to takecan ask them to empty their students belongings if they breach school policy?pockets and they can seize For how long? Are we held accountable if they arethe toy. - Carly lost or broken? - Alessandro
Discussion: Search Criteria Contd Discussion Point: Are teachers appropriately trained to take action?"If teachers are expected to conductpat-downs, shouldnt they be trained onit. It feels like a lot of police duties I "Im sure gender also playswould not feel comfortable doing." an issue. As a male- Heather teacher I would not search "I agree about being trained for pat a female student. That downs. I feel that they could cause a"Do teachers get appropriate training in could create a whole new lot of trouble. The student couldtaking immediate actions when it set of issues" - potentially say anything after that. Icomes to risky and harmful things, Alesssandro am not allowed to even touch asuch as weapons? Also, do teachers student when I supply as an EAget training in how to appropriately "In my discussion with a because I am not CPI trained. Isearch students? The word "invasive" teacher, she told me that guess there would have to be aneeds to be clarified. That is a powerful administrators are usually witness when the teacher isword" in charge of these types of performing the search." issues."- Olivia - Carly - Alessandro
What are the key issues addressed in this article? By Maria Andriano ISSUE EXPLANATION Limitedness of the law for Teachers and school administrators should be able to quickly intervene, search students, and seize possessions that educators interfere with safety and maintenance of environments which are conducive to learning. Reasonable vs. unreasonable Search is permitted. The lower standard of “reasonable suspicion” is the rationale for a school search whereas the searches by teachers or school higher standard of “reasonable ground” exists under criminal administrators ground. Questions need to be considered before a search is conductedIs a search "reasonable"? Can it be (related to evidence of breach of school regulations from conducted? credible source, revealing of more evidence, sensitivity and minimal intrusiveness, etc.) The need of knowledge surrounding laws and regulations for The need for teachers to have a teachers. The need to understand infractions, and to learn to better understanding of laws and make choices about when and how to respond to the infraction regulations (s). Teachers are obligated to enforce laws to maintain safety. Finding balance They also strive to create a warm and inclusive environment.
Discussion: Key Issues & Questions The FIVE ISSUES... How do we respect student privacy while stillenforcing the rules of the school and ensuring its safety? At one point, the article says that , “M.R.M. clearly establishes that school officials acting under the aegis of their authority can search a studentHow do we conduct searches within the limits of without a warrant provided that the search is the law? related to the infraction” (p. 39). How is this infraction defined? As teachers, we need toHow can teachers ensure that they are receiving understand the various definitions of infractions? the most uptodate information regarding the Are there levels of infractions? Does their need to laws and their rights as teachers to ensure the be an infraction for a search to take place? I safety of their students? thought the article said that if there was reasonable suspicion, than a search can take place!? - OLIVIA Maria We were talking about something along these lines in the Urban Education course (I take it with Heather), about focusing on big issues/problems rather than the mundane details, and how theperception of school as a haven, or place of safety, is greatly reduced or gone. And how do we deal withit? I want the classroom to be safe for everyone, but I also don’t want to perpetuate a climate of paranoia and mistrust. - JEAN How do WE foster this balance? - OLIVIA
What Is The Writers Position OnThese Issues? A balance MUST exist between the rights of studentsprivacy and the need for schools to be safe for students How do we achieve this balance?● Increase cooperation between school officials and the police● Clearly define the permissibility of random searches● School officials must meet certain criteria and guidelines as mandated by the Supreme Court of Canada● Consider the duties and rights of all people involved● Ensure all participants are aware of school policy● Treating all students with respect and dignity
Discussion Point: The author explores the balance between respecting the rights of a students privacy and the need for schools to be safe places. How well does he explore both sides? Should teachers/administrators have the power to search students? "There were times when I was reading the article. that the idea of having lower standards for teachers left me uncomfortable. As the article explains,"Yes. But I realize that for students spend a great deal of time at school and must necessarily carry serious violations the and use items of personal significance such as medication or religious administrations and paraphernalia. Students may not feel respected or safe knowing a teacher police should be can seize these items with greater ease than a police officer" - Emilieinvolved. That being said, Im not entirely sure how comfortable I would be in the process." - Heather "Going back to the toy issue, what if it is just a fidget? What about restorative justice and Aboriginal community building in the classroom? I wonder what their take, or other cultures takes would be on this issue? How do we navigate this in a multi-cultural setting? -What if the child requires Jean a "toy" or other form of distraction to assist with anxiety or other health- "But arent they only going to seize it if it is causing danger to otherrelated issues. There are students? In response to the culture issue, I think they should only feelexceptionalities and IEPs insecure if they know that their possession will cause harm. For to consider in this example, if a student is carrying around a knife for religious purposes discussion - Olivia than I think that it is appropriate for the teacher to seize the item. (This example has been in the news a lot). It could potentially put others at risk if the wrong person got their hands on it" - Carly
Discussion Point: How threatening are randomsearches for students and parents? Is anyone else uneasy about random searches in schools? On what grounds are these random searches being carried out? The article addresses a great point about schools becoming institutions of disciplineand punishment. Random searches may cause this. Students may respecttheir teachers and school officials less. A school sense of community may be lost and the climate for learning may not be a strong one. Random searches tell students they cannot be trusted. - Alessandro I can see this discussion being somewhat threatening to parents. I can see parents (and even students) expecting that teachers should also be randomly searched if necessary? - Olivia
Discussion: Relevance for TeachersDiscussion Point: The potential consequences of not knowing your legal rightsand responsibilities. I believe that at some point in my teaching career I may have to seize something from a student, likely something non threatening like a cell phone being misused, etc. but in the instance that it becomes more serious, I must know what is within my legal rights and responsibilities. For example, if I ignore reasonable suspicion because I feel it is not within my rights to act (like a police officer) I could be legally held accountable as well. - HeatherDiscussion Point: The balance between respecting the rights of a studentsprivacy and the need for schools to be safe places. The learning environment affects a students learning. Therefore, teachers and administrators need to foster a safe school environment, and this may mean searching or seizing distracting or dangerous items from students. However, students spend a great deal of time in school and may carry items of personal significance or necessity, therefore any searches or seizures must be done in a respectful way. -Emilie
Discussion: Relevance for TeachersContdThis reading generated discussion on our own comfort levels with the legalresponsibility to search a student you suspect is in possession of somethingdangerous. As teachers we need to be cognizant of the risks and our ownbarriers when a situation arises. My Associate Teacher told me that I should practice what I would say or do when a student swore at me or refused to do their work, because he said, it will happen and then I will be prepared and not overreact. The same applies to searching a student. When the time comes, we will need to act appropriately, while maintaining the students trust. - Emilie I want the classroom to be safe for everyone, but I also dont want to foster and perpetuate a climate of paranoia and mistrust. - Jean
Discussion Questions:1. Are there specific situations where the law is not necessarily the best course of action to take?2. If its better to be prepared than not in considering a suitable course of action in a search scenario, what role should the teacher take in this preparation? The school (including administration and/or committees)? School board? Province? Federal government? Pre-service education programs?3. Canada has an official policy of accepting and embracing multiculturalism, which has direct consequences in classroom. What are some of the implications on this topic, the search of students by school officials?4. What do you make of the inclusion of "toy" with "smoking, theft, and alcohol use" as a "violation...detrimental to establishing a climate conducive of learning"?5. How is infraction defined? Are there multiple definitions? Once we have the definition(s), how should teachers know when and how to take action?6. We discussed much about the need for training for teachers. What training would teachers need and why? To what extent should this training take place? Should training be initiated during teacher education programs?7. Why are the issues related to law and ethics not extensively brought up and discussed during teacher education programs?