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Resolved: In United States public K-12 schools, the probable cause standard ought to apply to searches of students
This topic seems interesting, and it should be, if it’s debated properly. The landscape is pretty broad and allows for a lot of direct clash. There are also some interesting questions about where the Constitution does and does not extend to, the answers to which could be use to frame a pretty dynamic debate.
k – 12 schools – Pretty straightforward, this includes all K-12 schools, public and private. We’re also excluding all post-secondary education like colleges and technical schools.
Probable Cause Standard – This is the 4th amendment standard used to determine if an officer can conduct a search of a person. The officer must have probable cause to suspect that a crime has occurred, at which point a prior warrant is no longer required to search an individual’s person. For example, if the officer sees blood on the hands of someone during the search for a murderer, then that is probable cause to detain and search that person. Do not get caught up in debating what is and is not probable cause; that is not the issue in this resolution.
Searches of students – This includes all searches – lockers, person, vehicles, etc… The affirmative and negative positions must both apply categorically.
1. Constitutionality – Despite what many people think, public institutions like schools are not beyond the reach of the U.S. Constitution. The probable cause standard is a constitutionally guaranteed protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and it extends everywhere. It is unconstitutional to exclude students from this protection.
2. Moral Precedent – Student’s learn much more in school than just what they’re taught in class. A large part of their moral development also occurs in those hallways. If students are subjected to searches, then we establish a moral precedent that this type of policing is OK, and we create a generation of people who will be on the dangerous cusp of a slippery slope descending into a police state.
3. Reason – There is no compelling reason not to have the probable cause standard. Why would a search of a student be conducted otherwise? The only justification to search would be if you suspected the student of a crime, in which case there is probable cause. It would be pretty ludicrous to just start searching students for no reason.
1. Constitutionality – The U.S. Constitution does not completely extend to public institutions like schools. There are special limitations in schools on things like speech in order to preserve safety and the sanctuary of the public space. To that end, the probable cause standard does not actually apply to students in schools.
2. Political Citizenship – Minors are not political citizens yet, and as such, the full protections from searches and seizures do not extend to them. They do not have the same political or economic rights as adults, and as such, there isn’t a justification to apply to probable cause standard to them.
3. Less Stringent Standard – Because safety concerns ought to be higher for children, a less stringent standard is more appropriate. The probable cause standard does not offer the appropriate flexibility for students to be searched if a security threat is suspected. Officials need to be able to respond quickly and with limited restrictions in order to ensure the safety of students.