Locker searches easier under new Alpine District policy
Education • Administrators now need only ‘reasonable suspicion,’ not reasonable cause, to search.
Published: January 15, 2014 07:53PM
Updated: January 15, 2014 10:41PM
Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Sadie Roberts, 13, packs up her homework following her first day of school at Pleasant Grove Jr. High, where she started as an eighth-grader on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012. In anticipation of her first day, Roberts tried on multiple outfits before settling on something comfortable and what she felt was unique to her style. It was the first day of school for the 82 schools in the Alpine school district.

Alpine School District students beware: It might soon be a bit easier for administrators to search your lockers.

The Alpine board on Tuesday night voted to approve revising the district’s search and seizure policy. The revised policy now allows locker searches without students’ presence anytime there is “reasonable suspicion” to do so, rather than just in specific situations and rather than for “reasonable cause.”

The revised policy also no longer requires schools to notify parents if a student refuses a search, though parents will have to be alerted if a student’s locker is searched in the student’s presence.

The board voted 6-1 in favor of the changes, with Brian Halladay voting against them. At an earlier meeting, Halladay had expressed concerns about whether the changes were in line with the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures.

All Utah school districts are required to have policies for searching students for drugs and weapons. Those policies must also “ensure protection of individual student rights against excessive and unreasonable intrusion,” according to state rule.

It’s common for policies to allow locker searches at any time, as lockers are school property. Districts, however, vary a bit on how specific their policies are when it comes to contacting parents, involving students and searching students’ other belongings.