A Student's Locker Can Be Searched

By Dr. Robert Wallace

September 25, 2018 5 min read

DR. WALLACE: I thought that high school students have the right to some privacy when on campus. I'm a 9th-grader and can't get used to school administrators having random locker searches. Once in a while, they find some drugs, and, in one case, they found a hunting knife. But, most times, they find nothing but books, sack lunches and clothes.

Is it possible that our administrators get a big kick out of searching student lockers? Two months ago, they randomly opened mine and found a half pack of cigarettes and a cigarette lighter. This stuff wasn't mine. My friend forgot his combination lock, so I allowed him to put his stuff in my locker. This "mistake" cost me a two-day suspension and caused my parents to blow their cigarette-fearing minds.

If principals can go through our lockers without our permission, why then can't we go through their desk drawers? We might find something worse than a few cigarettes. I thought the Constitution was written to protect the rights of all citizens. Why are teenagers and high school students not covered by our Constitution? — Anonymous, San Diego, California

ANONYMOUS: Teenagers do have certain rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and if they feel these rights are being infringed upon, they can defend themselves in court.

But locker searches on a high school campus wouldn't make it to the courtroom. The highest court in the land, the United States Supreme Court, decided in 1985 that if school officials have a reasonable suspicion of illegal behavior, a student locker can be searched without the student's permission. So, make sure you never give school authorities a reason to search your locker again.

When I was a principal back in the day in southern California and felt it necessary to search a student's locker, I always asked the student if he or she would allow me to conduct the search. Only one student ever said no.

I called that student's parents and asked them to be with me while the locker was searched. I had received reliable information that this particular student had a handgun hidden in his locker. When the locker was opened, a pistol that shot blanks to start track and swimming events was found. Even though the gun could not cause physical harm, the student was severely disciplined by the school and his parents. His excuse? He said the gun was brought to school to impress a potential girlfriend and show he was "tough and cool." It was actually her who alerted me to the potential problem, and she provided the size, color and markings of the gun to me before the search was conducted.


DR. WALLACE: I'm a 16-year-old girl with a big problem. About two months ago, I broke up with my boyfriend because I felt trapped in the relationship. I really felt bad about breaking up with him because I broke his heart. I felt so much guilt that I couldn't face him or even talk to him on the telephone. My best girlfriend offered to help me out back then. She called him for me, explained why I felt I had to break things off with him and gave him a shoulder to cry on. She basically helped him get over the break up.

About a week ago I discovered that these two are now going out together! I about fainted when I heard this and then again when I saw the two of them walking hand in hand at our school. This bothers me a bit. Now I'm thinking of all the good times he and I shared. I now feel like I want to get back together with him. Do you think I should try to win him back? Is this a good idea? — Stunned, Los Feliz, California

STUNNED: I suspect the only reason you're feeling melancholy right now is because your best girlfriend is dating your ex-boyfriend. Do nothing to encourage your ex to return to you while he is dating your best girlfriend. If you do, you'll lose them both. If you're patient, you might get another chance to date this boy again someday — that is, if you have not already found someone new yourself.

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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