March 6, 2013
A Washington state bill, S.B. 5618, that would allow police officers, or “school resource officers,” to search students without probable cause or parental consent, passed the State Senate Monday, 30-19.
The legislation would allow police to search a student’s person, locker and possessions if they are believed to be violating the law or any school rule. Searches are already mandatory under state law if a student is suspected of possessing a firearm.
Currently under Washington state law, if a school employee has a reasonable suspicion to search a student, they have the right, but a police officer serving as a school resource officer cannot search a student without probable cause.
Reasonable suspicion is a term that means a person has been or will be involved in a crime based on specific circumstances and facts. Reasonable suspicion is more than a hunch that a crime has been committed but does not require as much evidence as probable cause.
The bill opens by reading:
“The legislature recognizes that both the federal and state constitutions contain certain sacred protections against warrantless searches by law enforcement. Federal and state courts have recognized certain reasonable exceptions to the warrant requirement consistent with common sense and public safety.”
In a recent opinion, the Washington State Supreme Court overruled previous case law and determined that a school resource officer could not conduct searches of students. If enacted, this new law would allow police to search students much more easily.