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New Jersey v. T.L.O.: Of Children and Smokescreens

NCJ Number
Family Law Quarterly Volume: 19 Issue: 3 Dated: (Fall 1985) Pages: 311-329
I M Rosenberg
Date Published
19 pages
In New Jersey v. T.L.O., a case involving a school principal's search of a student's pocketbook for evidence of a school rule violation, the U.S. Supreme Court both diminished constitutional protection for children and created precedent for similar curtailment of adults' rights, while appearing to compromise between the privacy rights of students and the needs of school officials in ensuring order.
The Court held that the fourth amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures applied to the search of a student by a public school official. Although the case involved a full-scale personal search of a student's pocketbook, the Court ruled that a balancing of private and public interests in this case was such that neither a warrant nor probable cause was required for such invasions of privacy in the public schools. The 'reasonableness under all the circumstances' criterion as articulated and applied by the T.L.O. Court to full-scale personal searches of students by teachers may give even less protection than the 'reasonable suspicion' test of Terry v. Ohio, permitted only for lesser invasions of privacy in emergency situations. 116 footnotes.