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Random Student Searches Cross a Line

By Walt Gardner — November 10, 2017 1 min read

The safety of students cannot be emphasized enough in the wake of violence in this country. That’s why I support the use of metal detectors when students arrive on campus. But submitting students thereafter to random searches goes too far (“Should L.A. Students Have to Submit to Random Searches?” LAWeekly, Oct. 27).

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students do not forfeit their free speech rights when they are on school grounds. But random searches do not constitute a violation of free speech, which is why they need to be justified. Otherwise, it’s a slippery slope to even greater personal invasions. For example, do students have a reasonable expectation to privacy when they use the restrooms in school?

Because traditional public schools are required by law to enroll all who show up at their door, they have no control over the composition of the student body. The high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District where I taught for 28 years was once known for the safety of its campus, as well as for its academic excellence. But as the city changed, so did the student body. I had gang members in my classes. Yet I doubt that random searches would have done anything to improve the safety of the campus. I say that even though one of my students was expelled for packing a pistol. What led to his expulsion was trying to impress a girl on the school bus at the end of the day by flashing the weapon. But this occured before metal detectors were installed.

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