Interrogations and Searches

Interrogations and Searches

In order to enhance security in the schools and prevent students from violating board policies, school rules, and state law, the district authorizes school officials to conduct reasonable searches according to the procedures outlined herein. In conducting such searches, school officials will make every effort to protect the privacy interests of individuals. The district will post notices on school property at all regular entrances and any other access point on school grounds. This notice will advise individuals that searches may be conducted as outlined in this administrative rule. If a properly conducted search turns up evidence that a Board policy, school rule or state law has been violated, the district will take appropriate disciplinary action. In cases where the evidence suggests a violation of state law, school officials also will notify law enforcement.

Searches of a Person or a Person's Personal Belongings

Procedures for searching a person or a person’s personal belongings must comply fully with the "reasonableness standard" as adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of New Jersey v. T.L.O. and as set forth in South Carolina law. This standard requires that a search must be "justified at its inception" and "reasonable in scope." "Justified at its inception" means that a school official must have reasonable grounds for suspecting that a search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating Board policies, school rules or state law. "Reasonable in scope" means that the actual search conducted must be likely to turn up evidence of the specific violation. In addition, the search must take into consideration the age and sex of the individual being searched and the nature of the infraction. Another administrator or certified staff member, who is the same sex as the student being searched, should be present during a search. Only administrators shall have the authority to conduct searches of a person or a person’s personal belongings pursuant to this policy. Any administrator who conducts a search must be of the same sex as the person being searched. In accordance with state law, strip searches are forbidden by the Georgetown County School District. The District defines a strip search as requiring a student, except in extreme situations where there is imminent danger, to remove and/or lower any article of clothing which would reveal the student’s undergarment(s), or any other type of intrusive search which reasonably would be considered embarrassing. Asking a student to remove shoes and socks, as well as outer garments, will not be considered a strip search.

The district provides lockers, desks, and other such school property to students for their use during the academic year. Because the district retains ownership of the aforementioned property, school officials may conduct random, unannounced searches of such property. School officials will notify students at the beginning of each school year that such property may be randomly searched at any time.

Searches of Vehicles on School Property 

Students are permitted to park on school premises as a matter of privilege. Accordingly, all students desiring to park their vehicles on school premises must first obtain a parking permit from a designated school administrator. In order to obtain a parking permit, the student must sign a form acknowledging that he/she understands and agrees to the terms regarding the use of parking lots set forth in this administrative rule. Vehicles which do not have a permit in plain view are subject to being towed at the student’s expense. Because parking on school premises is a privilege, the school retains the authority to conduct routine searches of the exterior of vehicles parked on school property. In conducting a search of the exterior of a vehicle, school officials may observe those things inside vehicles which are in plain view. The district may search the interiors of student vehicles, including such things as trunks, glove compartments and personal belongings within a vehicle, whenever a school official has reason to believe a student is violating Board policies, school rules or state law, as described in the "reasonableness standard" set forth in this administrative rule. When a school official needs to gain access to the interior of a vehicle parked on school premises for purposes of conducting a search in compliance with the "reasonableness standard," he/she will first ask the student to provide such access. If a student refuses to provide the school official with access to the interior of his/her vehicle, he/she will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, including loss of all parking privileges.

Searches By Canines

The use of a trained canine to search for controlled substances in schools shall be on a random, unannounced basis. From time to time during the school year or at the request of the school principal or his/her designee, a trained canine with its handler may go onto the school premises to sniff lockers, desks and the exterior of vehicles. At no time will a trained canine be used to search a person for controlled substances. The use of trained canines to conduct searches may occur during the regular school year, as well as during summer school. A qualified and authorized handler will accompany the canine and will be responsible for the dog’s actions. Should the dog alert its handler to the presence of any controlled substance, school officials would then have a reasonable basis to conduct a search of the item alerted on, as well as to conduct a search of those persons who own, are currently using, or are associated with the item in accordance with the procedures set forth in this administrative rule. The school may enforce disciplinary sanctions based on any contraband found.

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