Should "reasonable belief" be better defined?

Dec. 18, 2003, midnight | By Rocky Hadadi | 17 years, 1 month ago

Yes: The policy is too ambiguous

"It happens all the time, that kids bring something wrong to school and we have to search them to find it," says security guard Jose Segura. "Reasonable belief, that's all we need." Regardless of the current protocol, the MCPS policy of search and seizure should make it mandatory for school officials to have physical or verbal evidence of their suspicions before searching a student or their property, not just "reasonable belief."

Unlike other MCPS policies on school safety and discipline, the search and seizure policy is wholly ambiguous. "It has no real set standard," admits Segura. "It varies from person to person." For example, while Segura's definition of reasonable belief is "suspicious behavior reported by other students," security guard Stephen Miller's definition is "when a reasonable person has belief that someone should be searched." This type of inconsistency between school officials should be eliminated; as a single governing body, the Blair administration should have a single policy.

In addition to being unclear, the current search and seizure policy violates a student's rights to privacy and property. Not only is the administration allowed to search students, but they can also search their lockers and cars, violating a student's most basic sense of confidentiality. The Fourth Amendment states that searches upon individuals shall not be allowed without warrants or oaths of probable cause; in a public-school setting, the same type of considerations should be taken into account. The fact that only slight suspicion is needed by administration to violate a fundamental civil liberty is ridiculous and unreasonable.

Another fault of the current search and seizure policy is its tendency to stereotype students by perpetuating an image of students who are more likely to commit illegal behavior. A security guard who wishes to remain anonymous said, "The policy separates students into those who look suspicious and those who don't. Sometimes, unfortunately, the students who seem more capable of bad behavior are of a certain social group." According to an informal Silver Chips survey conducted on Dec. 3 and 4 during 5B lunch, 21 percent of black students have been searched, compared to nine percent of white students.

The current search and seizure policy is a hazy policy that revels in its ambiguity. By stereotyping students and violating their basic constitutional rights, it perpetuates a domineering school environment that veers dangerously close to authoritarian rule. Instead of continuing a policy that gives administrators complete control to search students at their every whim, MCPS should make it mandatory for school officials to have physical or verbal evidence of suspicion beforehand. If physical or verbal evidence is obtained by the school administration in advance, then conducted searches can protect both the school and the rights of students.

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Rocky Hadadi. So, Rocky Hadadi has a very small life. She likes Baz Luhrmann. She likes Rancid. She wants to have John Frusciante's lovechild of guitar solos. Her interests include: meaningful friendships with CAP girls, exceptional Magnet amigos, track suits, aquamarine, Chucks, velvet Docs, painting random crap … More »

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