Ohio’s highest court has upheld a warrantless search of a high school student’s unattended book bag, ruling that such searches are justified by schools’ obligation to keep students safe in the era of the Columbine and Sandy Hook campus attacks.
The state supreme court held this month that the search by a school security officer of a backpack left on a school bus was not unreasonable.
The book bag belonging to Joshua Polk, a student at Whetstone High school in Columbus, was first given a cursory search by security officer Robert Lindsey to determine who owned it and ensure that it was not dangerous. Recalling a rumor that the student was involved with a gang, Lindsey conducted a more-thorough search that revealed bullets. A police officer joined Lindsey in finding and searching Polk, which turned up a handgun in another bag the student had with him.
Polk was charged with gun-possession crimes. His lawyers said the initial search of the unattended bag was permissible, but the more-thorough search based on the rumor of Polk’s gang affiliation was unjustified.
A version of this article appeared in the May 30, 2017 edition of Education Week as Ohio Court Upholds Search Of Unattended Backpack