A student has the right to privacy in the school environment, but this right can be somewhat limited depending on the type of school the student is going to and in what state they are going to school.
A public school is funded by the U.S. government so it is obliged to guarantee your rights under the Constitution. However, to counteract issues such as violence and drug abuse many schools have implemented policies that, while design to ensure the safety and health of the students, limit the privacy of those students.
Can a Police Officer Search Me or My Car at School?
When dealing with the police, you have the same rights as a student that you do as a private citizen. Miranda rights still apply to students, so anything you say to a police officer "can and will be used against you in a court of law." The only two pieces of information you must give to a police officer are your name and address, after that you can request to see an attorney and are not required to say anything else.
A police officer cannot search you unless they have a warrant from a judge or are arresting you. If the officer reasonably suspects you may have a weapon, however, the officer can frisk you, and in the event they find a weapon can do a full search. When an officer wants to search your car and does not have a warrant from a judge, they must ask for consent from the owner.
Can a Teacher or the Principal Make Me Answer Questions or Search Me?
When a teacher or other school faculty member suspects a student of committing a crime, the students has the same rights as when dealing with a police officer. If you feel you may jeopardize yourself by answering certain questions, you should say that you wish to speak to an attorney. Remember, just like a police officer, anything you say to a teacher may be used against you later.
Teachers can search students without a warrant by a judge as long as they have reasonable grounds for doing so. The teacher must reasonably suspect you of having committed a crime in order to search you.
In some states lockers are considered school property. When this is the case, teachers and other school officials may do random searches of lockers whenever they choose. In other states, a teacher must have reasonable grounds of suspicion that a student has committed a crime before searching their locker. You will need to check the laws in your state to see which of these two policies apply in the school you go to.
Seeking Legal Help
If you have been accused of committing a crime by school officials, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney with experience in civil rights law. Your attorney will be able to inform you of your rights and let you know if your right to privacy may have been illegally invaded by the school. Your attorney will also let you know if you may be eligible to receive money damages in a lawsuit against the school for invasion of privacy.