A school resource officer did not have probable cause to search a student’s backpack and, as a result, an air pistol that turned up had to be suppressed in a criminal proceeding, Washington state’s highest court has ruled.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the school resource officer was not a school official and thus the more-lenient standard of “reasonable suspicion” for searches by school personnel did not apply.
The ruling this month in Washington v. Meneese stems from a February 2009 incident at Robinswood High School in Bellevue, Wash.
School resource officer Michael Fry of the Bellevue police department spotted a student in a school restroom holding a bag of marijuana. The officer took the student, Jamar B.D. Meneese, to a school office where he placed him under arrest and handcuffed him. Mr. Fry then opened and searched the student’s locked backpack, which contained an air pistol.
Mr. Meneese, who was an adult at the time, was convicted in a state trial court of possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana and unlawfully carrying a dangerous weapon at school. The student challenged the weapons charge based on the officer’s alleged lack of probable cause to search his backpack.
A version of this article appeared in the August 22, 2012 edition of Education Week as Wash. Court Nullifies Backpack Search