T.L.O, whose real name is Tracy Lois Odem was a teenager and a student in high school. She was suspected of dealing with drugs by the school administration. Upon searching for her, a list containing students’ who owed her money was found in her purse, along with cigarettes and some marijuana. As a result, she was charged with owning hard drugs. In this analysis, we will discuss more about this case, relating it to the student rights and privacy, and the justifications of conducting searches in the learning institutions.
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Before the trial, T.L.O attempted to pacify evidence in the investigation, but the court declined to grant her the motion. Therefore, she was found guilty by Middlesex, the New Jersey juvenile and domestic relations court, and hence convicted to serve 1-year under probation (New Jersey v. T.L.O). However, in the proceedings, Tracy argued that, according to the 4th amendment, her rights against searches and confiscation of personal items had been violated (McAllister, 2016). She later appealed her case to the Supreme Court after the magistrate bench had found her guilty of the offense. Later, the petition was successful, and it was proclaimed that the evidence was not reliable enough to be used against her and that the search was unreasonable.
According to this case, there are three reasons which justify the search. First, in the report, the school’s assistant principal stated that the defendant had been smoking: which was against the school rules (McAllister, 2016). Hence, there was a probable reason to suspect that she was in possession of cigarettes: and this justified the search. Secondly, the rolling papers discovered in her purse made the administration believe that the girl was also dealing with marijuana. The finding also warranted the investigation since it presented additional proof that revealed drug-related activities, which is a severe violation of the school rules (McAllister, 2016). Lastly, the list found in her bag with the names of students who owed her money was enough indication to prove that she had been selling drugs to her colleagues. Furthermore, one of the teachers caught her together with another student smoking in the lavatory. The colleague later admitted to having committed the felony, whereas T.L.O. denied the allegations.
The legit expectation of confidentiality is a component of privacy law, which controls which places and actions an individual has a lawful right to privacy: this also applies to school-going children. Hence, school administration must obtain authorization before searching any student within their premises (McAllister, 2016). Besides, the exercise, which is a breach of personal privacy, should be conducted to the subject centered on the reasonable cause to believe the student violates the law. One can argue that the institution leadership infringed the defendant’s confidentiality by rummaging through her purse. However, it was justifiable because they had a reasonable ground to believe that the learner engaged in an illegal activity that would interfere with discipline and order.
In my opinion, the girl deserved to be disciplined because she acted against the school rules for possessing cigarettes and marijuana. She was also engaged in selling the same drugs to her fellow students, which was a serious matter. She was also a bad influence on her colleagues, and she had to be disciplined under the law. On the other hand, I believe that, even though the administration violated the legit expectation of privacy at school, they had to balance it with the facility authorities’ needs to maintain a peaceful and secure educational environment.
The above case serves as an excellent lesson to parents and school administration on how they both need to be vigilant in ensuring school-going children are well protected from harmful influences. It was inappropriate for Tracy to have been engaged in such illegal and destructive activities at that tender age. Therefore, parents ought to take full responsibility for their children’s welfare to avoid such occurrences. In this scenario, the court was, therefore, right in its judgment of the case.
McAllister, M. (2016). Rethinking student cell phone searches. SSRN Electronic Journal. Web.
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New Jersey v. T.L.O. (n.d.). Oyez. Web.