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.
Some believe if enacted, the law will help make schools a safer environment. Others parents feel it undermines their parental rights and worry about the possible consequences.
Washington state parents like Doug Weller, who homeschools his children, sees this as yet another example of the way public schools are becoming.
“This is indicative of the attitude of the federal government: security trumps freedom. This, of course, is a patently false and dangerous mindset, to sacrifice freedom for a sense of security only available through the government. This bill fails to even acknowledge parental rights,” said Weller.
In fact, according to the National Household Education Survey Program, 1.5 million students were homeschooled in 2007, a 36% increase since the last study conducted in 2003.
“I believe the states accepting so much federal money for public education strips schools from their ability to determine education free of the social engineering that is taking place in our schools today.
“The state has been allowed to believe that they hold deed to your children. Apathy in the home and voting booth have made this possible as parents cede more and more authority and responsibility over to the state in general and the public schools in particular,” continued Weller.
Recent incidents at public schools have caused concern from many regarding police interaction and lack of parental oversight.
In 2011, at a school in Connecticut, A 17-year-old boy in Connecticut was thrown to the ground and tasered five times because he was yelling at a cafeteria worker who had yelled at him.
Last year, a student in Stockton, California was handcuffed with zip ties on his hands and feet, forced to go to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and was charged with battery on a police officer. The student was 5 years old.