New Jersey v. T.L.O

United States Supreme Court
Argued March 28, 1984 Reargued October 2, 1984 Decided January 15, 1985
By: Seth Jacobs
On March 17th, 1980 two girls who were freshmen of Piscataway Township High School were caught smoking in the bathroom. Smoking on school grounds was not prohibited as the [[#|students]] had their own designated area to smoke in. The teacher who caught them took them to the vice-principal Theodore Choplick. The vice-principal questioned the girls and one of them admitted to it openly. The other girl, known as Terri Lynn Owens as she was a minor at the time, said she never smoked in the bathroom and in fact she had never smoked before in her life. Choplick demanded TLO to hand over her purse and as he found the pack of cigarettes, he found rolling papers. As custom, Mr. Choplick assumed rolling papers in high-school meant a student was smoking marijuana. Further investigation of the purse Mr. Choplick found a dismal amount of marijuana, a pipe, plastic bags, a significant amount of one dollar bills, and an index card of students who owed her money. She fought the search claiming it violated her Fourth Amendment rights and was an unreasonable search.

Decision and Rationale:
The Court ruled in favor of the New Jersey, 6-3, that the search was reasonable and did not violate her Fourth Amendment rights. The Court held two reasons for the basis of the search being reasonable. One decision was that Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures applies to searches conducted by public school officials. The second was search of [[#|student]]'s purse was reasonable. The Court also specified that states have a right to provide a safe and healthy environment to learn in.

Impact on Teaching:
Teachers, in preservation of creating safe and healthy learning environments, have the right to search a student’s belongings under suspicion. With such statement, a student cannot claim a breach of their Fourth Amendment rights on school property. We, as teachers, have the right to search and seizure any of the students’ belongings as we suspect them of carrying illegal contraband. To take from this, if they bring something onto school property, we have the right to search it under the impression they have something illegal.

Quiz question:
What amendment was brought into question during the New Jersey v. T.L.O trial?
4th Amendment

469 U.S. 325
New Jersey v. T.L.O
Certiorari To The Supreme Court of New Jersey
No. 83-712 Argued: March 28, 1984 Decided: January 15, 1985
By: Gabrielle Slay


A New Jersey high school teacher caught a girl and her companion smoking cigarettes in the school bathroom. Upon finding the students he took them to the vice principal’s office. The vice principal conducted a search of the young lady’s purse when she insisted that she was not participating in the cigarette smoking activity that is accused. The vice principal found further evidence in her purse of cigarettes, marijuana rolling paper and a list of students that owed her money. When taken to court the student argued that the search of her purse was unreasonable based on the 4th amendment. The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court affirmed the trial court's finding that there had been no Fourth Amendment violation, but vacated the adjudication of delinquency and remanded on other grounds. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed and ordered the suppression of the evidence found in respondent's purse, holding that the search of the purse was unreasonable.

The Court ruled in favor of the New Jersey, that the search did not violate the student’s Fourth Amendment right and therefore consider reasonable. One reason that the court gave was school officials need not obtain a warrant before searching a student who is under their authority. The principal had reasonable suspicion that the student was smoking cigarettes. The suspicion and search brought about more evidence of criminal activity.

Impact on Teaching:
We as teachers have to make sure that our students are in the safest environment as possible. If we see any violation of that we much act upon in an orderly fashion. This situation was handled properly and showed how to discipline students. If handled differently this student could have gotten off on something that is prevalent in high schools. This situation could’ve given other students the thought to do the same and that they can get out of it.

Quiz Question:

What was a reason that the court decided that the search of the student’s purse was reasonable?

School officials did not have to obtain a warrant before searching a student who is under their authority.