Is this legal? Planned K-9 search of a K-12 school in Michigan.

I work for a K-12 school in SW Michigan. I just received an email from administration that tomorrow the police K-9 unit will be here to search the parking lot and the students’ bags and coats. Students will be required to place their bags and coats in the hallways during this time and students will not be allowed to leave their respective classrooms.

Is this legal? What about the 4th Amendment? I can see that this would be reasonable to search one or a few students that gave administration reasonable suspicion, but the whole student body… and their cars?

I can’t give out any more information than this, not only because I’m an employee of the school, but also because this is all the information I was given.

So is this legal? What say you Teeming Legal Millions?

Reported for forum change, but in the meantime, yes, it’s probably legal. The Fourth Amendment has limited applicability in schools, because the school is acting in loco parentis. Canine “sniffs” generally fall under the “plain view doctrine,” which basically says that observation of things in plain view is not a search.

ETA: The coats might be iffy, as the students have a greater expectation of privacy in their clothing.

Moved from General Questions to IMHO.

samclemn moderator

Horribly offensive IMO, but students have consistently been afforded far lower privacy, and no cause needed for searches on school grounds. So don’t keep your stash in your car if you are going to park it in the school’s lot!

Doesn’t matter – the sniff of a dog doesn’t itself violate the Fourth Amendment. US v. Place and Illinois v. Caballes.

in loco parentis - Latin for “like your crazy parents”.

… maybe. Both circumscribed to an unknown degree by Florida v. Jardines.

LOL. I think it means something like the school is acting as a “local” or “surrogate” parent.

I’d organize a one day boycott of attendance if my kids went to that school. “Horribly offensive” is right.

I have to wonder about the reliability of dog searches. I’ve seen dogs that were trained to indicate they found contraband simply by cues from the police officer and not because they actually found something. That way the officer can claim the dog found something which would give the officer probable cause.

The problem is that the kids and their parents don’t know this is coming. It will be a total surprise to them.

…except that the school apparently sent out an email to everyone saying they were doing it, which seems to negate the entire purpose of the exercise.

The school sent an email to its staff, which **Dragwyr **is one of.


(a) Did the notice from the administration say anything about whether you are, or are not, allowed to tell your students about this today (Monday?)

(b) In any case, is there still time for you to do that? Or are your students done and gone for the day by the time you are reading this?

ETA: I also question the lock-down rule, that nobody will be allowed to leave their classrooms.

Yes, horribly offensive. Possibly a cause for some kind of demonstrations or other protest actions (by any combination of students/faculty/parents), even if only after-the-fact?

We (the staff of a S. GA high school) never got any notification. They just showed up. Only the principals knew when.

Note my latest edit to my post just above, questioning whether this might be the occasion for any kind of after-the-fact protest. Did any such thing happen at your school?

And what will happen if. . . just supposing. . . some student refuses to stay in his room, and demands to leave the room, and does leave even if told not to? Will a major Constitutional Crisis ensue?

In California, every public school that I know of has signs posted at all the parking lots saying that any vehicle on the property may be searched at any time for any reason, and any person, by the act of putting his vehicle on said property, thereby consents to the same.

Still, offensive.

The answer turns in part on what they’re searching for. Much of the school Fourth Amendment cases have turned on the fact that the searches were not for ordinary law enforcement purposes but are instead for so-called “special needs.” If they’re just going in to catch kids with pot, for example, that may or may not qualify.

There’s also the issue of whether the sniffs are themselves searches, but the issue isn’t just the dog’s sniff but the additional requirement that the kids put their coats and bags in the hall in combination with the sniff. A requirement that you put your belongings in a certain place so they can be assessed sounds an awful lot like a search and/or seizure, even if the assessment were just plain view.

Cars are a whole 'nother can of worms. They’re on much safer ground there.

Meh. There’s always been a Fourth Amendment line at the door to your home. School hallways and lockers are much more clearly like your luggage at the bus depot or your car during a traffic stop.