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Locker Searches Pros and Cons List

Because of the threat of school violence in the United States, several districts have instituted policies which permit administrators to search the lockers of students. Some may have “just cause” language in this policy, while others do not. Anything that would be considered “contraband” by the school found in the locker would put the student at risk of a disciplinary action meeting.

The idea behind having these searches is that they can reduce the number of weapons and drugs in the school. Does this policy come at the expense of student privacy?

Here are the pros and cons of locker searches to review.

List of the Pros of Locker Searches

1. The lockers are not student property.
Students are given permission to use school lockers as a way to store their essential books, sports equipment, or computers. If they are not treated with care, like any other rental property, administrators can then take back possession to restore its value. Locker searches are one component of this process, similar to a landlord inspection for an apartment.

2. It offers schools access to another layer of safety.
Being able to search lockers whenever there is a reasonable suspicion of something helps to keep everyone in the building safe. This method is one of the most effective ways to reduce contraband in the school, especially dangerous items like a weapon or illicit drugs.

3. The method offers a way to build trust.
Teachers and administrators are trusted to use the power of a locker search in responsible ways. It is an opportunity for the adults in the room to demonstrate actual leadership skills. There are chances to speak about private issues when items are found during searches too, potentially helping some students stay out of trouble.

4. It helps to counter the issues of negative student behavior.
Over 160,000 students skip at least one day of school each year in the United States because they fear that someone might try to hurt them. Forty students each year are killed because of gun violence on school grounds. Up to 100,000 students bring a weapon to school, mostly for defensive purposes. Over 200 teachers are physically assaulted each year by their students. Searching lockers is a tool which seeks to stop these issues before they start at local schools.

List of the Cons of Locker Searches

1. They can be performed without probable cause.
Although the concept of a locker search runs against the idea of the Fourth Amendment, the Supreme Court in the United States has ruled that random searches are constitutional. They can be performed against students even when there are no elevated risks to safety or security. Some states do have a standard where reasonable suspicion must be present, if not full probable cause.

2. It can be the cause of embarrassment.
Students keep numerous personal items in their locker, from contraceptives to love letters. Having administrators rifle through these things creates an opportunity for the adults to embarrass the students – especially if there is a frayed relationship in place already. Locker searches are sometimes used by districts as a way to modify behavior.

3. It assumes that students are always at their worst.
A school district does have a duty to care for its students. It must also treat them with the idea that they’re trying to better themselves in some way to promote a learning environment. The concept of a random locker search suggests that the administrators assume that students will always be at their worst instead of striving to be their best. That attitude can stop the learning process for some kids, especially if they are always subjected to these “random” events.

4. There are other ways to detect contraband other than a locker search.
Many schools have metal detectors installed on their entryways to limit hidden items when students arrive. This system is fair because everyone gets checked instead of having someone singled out for a search. Using a locker search effectively says to the student body that the individual involved has done something wrong. Since most random searches don’t find contraband, the relationship between the student and teacher (or administrators) can be forever harmed.

These locker search pros and cons seek to balance the need for safety with student privacy. Although there are always going to be people who try to take advantage of this system, the chance to remove potential threats in an era where school violence seems to make headlines constantly is one that is too beneficial to ignore.