The Board of Education is committed to ensuring an atmosphere on school property and at school functions that is safe and orderly. To achieve this kind of environment, any school official authorized to impose a disciplinary penalty on a student may question a student about an alleged violation of law and may be required to conduct searches as a result.
Searches and Seizures
Students are protected by the Constitution from unreasonable searches and seizures. An authorized school official may conduct a search and seize contraband on school grounds or in a school building only when the school district employee has reasonable suspicion to believe the student is engaging in proscribed activity that is in violation of school rules and/or is illegal. The superintendent, building administrators, school nurses, and district security officials are authorized to conduct such searches. Parental permission or presence is not required, however, where practical, the searches will be conducted in the presence of more than one district employee.
An authorized school official may search a student or the student’s belongings based upon information received from a district employee or an informant. An individual, other than a district employee, will be considered an informant if that person has previously supplied information that was accurate and verified, made an admission against his/her own interest, provided the same information that is received independently from other sources, or the information he/she is communicating is related to an immediate threat to safety.
Before searching a student or the student’s belongings, the authorized school official should attempt to get the student to admit to possessing physical evidence that he/she violated the law or the district code, or get the student to voluntarily consent to the search. Searches will be limited to the extent necessary to locate the evidence sought.
Whenever practicable, a search will be conducted in the privacy of an administrative office with the student present when his/her possessions are being searched. Again, if possible, the search will be conducted in the presence of more than one district employee. (Refer to section – Questioning of Students)
Some factors to be considered in determining whether reasonable suspicion exists to search a student or the student’s belongings include but are not limited to:
- the age of the student;
- the student’s record and past history;
- the predominance and seriousness of the problem in the school where the search is directed;
- the urgency to conduct the search without delay.
Documentation of Searches
The authorized school official conducting the search shall be responsible for promptly recording the following information about each search:
- name, age, and grade of student searched;
- reasons for the search;
- purpose of search (that is, what item was being sought)
- type and scope of search;
- person conducting the search and his/her title and position;
- witnesses, if any, to the search;
- time and location of the search;
- results of search (that is, what items were found);
- disposition of items found;
- time, manner and result of parent notification.
The building principal or the principal’s designee shall be responsible for the custody, control, and disposition of any illegal or dangerous item taken from a student. The principal or the principal’s designee shall clearly label all items taken from the student and retain control of the items until they are turned over to the police. The principal or principal’s designee shall be responsible for personally delivering dangerous or illegal items to police authorities.
Student Lockers, Desks, and Other School Storage Places
Although provided by the school district for student use, lockers, desks, and other such storage spaces remain the exclusive property of the school district. Students should have no expectation of privacy with respect to these areas and school officials retain complete control over them. This means school officials have the right to search such areas. The district officials reserve the right to call upon police authorities to undertake periodic searches of lockers through the use of canine units.
Questioning of Students
School officials have the right to question students regarding any violation of school rules or illegal activity. Investigations concerning reports of misconduct are to be conducted by the administration in a timely manner, and the investigation may include but not be limited to the questioning of students, staff, parents, or other individuals as may be appropriate. Students may request the presence of another staff member during questioning. The granting of the request will be at the discretion of the school administrator, subject to considerations such as the availability of staff. An individual who is questioned may be asked to write and sign his/her responses, or prepare a written and signed statement indicating what he/she knows about an incident in question. If the student is unable to do so, the student’s responses may be written down by the administrator. Parents of children who are so questioned will be notified in a timely manner, and whenever possible within the same day of the questioning, in the event the infraction under investigation is of a serious nature or illegal. In the event a parent cannot be reached, the administrator will continue to attempt to make phone contact during the course of the day and the following morning, and log the time of each attempt. If phone contact cannot be made, a certified letter of notification will be mailed to the parents.
Should the questioning of students by school officials focus on the actions of a particular student, that student will also be questioned by an administrator, and that student may be asked to write and sign his/ response to questions, or prepare a written and signed statement indicating what he/she knows about the incident in question. The student’s parent will be contacted if the actions under investigation are serious or illegal. If this is not the case, the parent may be contacted and the degree, if any, of parent involvement will vary depending upon the nature and the reason for questioning, and the necessity for further action that may occur as a result (also see District Policy #7330 Law Enforcement and Search).
Staff of the Pine Bush Central School District will notify police when activities that occur on school grounds, social media or virtual classrooms are illegal, or when an emergency situation occurs that, in the estimation of the administrative staff, requires police involvement. Under circumstances where a student has violated the law on school grounds and criminal proceedings may follow, the police will assume their normal role including that of investigator.
Generally, police investigations of incidents that occur out of school cannot be conducted on school grounds. The district will release students from classes to meet with the police in such cases only with parent consent, or if the police present a warrant. (also see District Policy #7330 Searches and Interrogations of Students).
Child Protective Services Investigation
Consistent with the district’s commitment to keep students safe from harm and the obligation of school officials to report to child protective services when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a student has been abused or maltreated, the district will cooperate with local child protective services workers who wish to conduct interviews of students on school property relating to allegations of suspected child abuse, neglect, or custody investigations.
All requests by the child protective services to interview a student on school property shall be made directly to the building principal or his/her designee. The principal or principal’s designee shall set the time and place for the interview. The principal or principal’s designee shall decide if it is necessary and appropriate for a school official to be present during the interview, depending on the age of the student being interviewed and the nature of the allegations. If the nature of the allegations is such that it may be necessary for the student to remove any of his/her clothing in order for the child protective services worker to verify the allegations, the school nurse or other district medical personnel must be present during that portion of the interview. No student may be required to remove his/her clothing in front of a child protective services worker or school district official of the opposite sex, other than a school nurse or other medical district personnel.
A child protective services worker may not remove a student from school property without a court order, unless the worker reasonably believes the student would be subject to danger of abuse if he/she were not removed from school before a court order can reasonably be obtained. If the worker believes the student would be subject to danger of abuse, the worker may remove the student without a court order and without the parent’s consent.