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Policy 9260 - Student Search and Seizure

The purpose of this policy is to provide guidelines related to the school system’s authority to conduct searches of a student and the student’s possessions, and to provide uniform procedures for the administration of such searches.

Policy Document

I. Policy Statement

The Board of Education of Howard County is committed to providing a safe and supportive learning environment, free from dangerous or illegal items and those items that constitute a violation of Board policy. In order to ensure safety and security practices consistently across the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), the Board authorizes statutorily designated employees to conduct reasonable searches of a student and of the student’s possessions on school property or during any school-sponsored activity in accordance with Maryland law and this policy.

II. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to provide guidelines related to the school system’s authority to conduct searches of a student and the student’s possessions, and to provide uniform procedures for the administration of such searches.

III. Definitions

Within the context of this policy, the following definitions apply:

  1. Authorized Searcher – An HCPSS staff member with the authority to search.

  2. Parent – Any one of the following, recognized as the adult(s) legally responsible for the student:

    1. Biological Parent – A natural parent whose parental rights have not been terminated.

    2. Adoptive Parent – A person who has legally adopted the student and whose parental rights have not been terminated.

    3. Custodian – A person or an agency appointed by the court as the legal custodian of the student and granted parental rights and responsibilities.

    4. Guardian – A person who has been placed by the court in charge of the affairs of the student and granted parental rights and responsibilities.

    5. Caregiver – An adult resident of Howard County who exercises care, custody, or control over the student but who is neither the biological parent nor legal guardian, as long as the person satisfies the requirements of the Education Article, §7-101(c) (Informal Kinship Care).

    6. Foster Parent – An adult approved to care for a child who has been placed in the home by a state agency or a licensed child placement agency as provided by the Family Law Article, §5-507.

  3. Personal Electronic Device – Any device in a student’s possession which electronically communicates, sends, receives, stores, reproduces or displays voice and/or text communication or data. These include, but are not limited to, cellular phones, pagers, smart phones, music and media players, gaming devices, tablets, laptop computers, and personal digital assistants.

  4. Reasonable Belief – The standard used for authorized school personnel to conduct a search of a student. Searches must be based on a belief that the student possesses an item, the possession of which is a criminal offense under the laws of Maryland or a violation of any other law or HCPSS policy or the HCPSS Student Code of Conduct.

  5. School Property – Any property owned or leased by the HCPSS or used by the HCPSS for school-related activities. The concept of property extends to school activities such as domestic or international travel, use of parks and recreation facilities, proms at hotels, etc. Bus stops and facilities scheduled by the school system for student use are considered an extension of school property. Examples of school property include but are not limited to desks, cubbies, HCPSS electronic devices, and lockers.

  6. School-Related Activity – Any HCPSS activity, whether held on or off school property, in which a student directly participates (e.g., domestic or international travel, athletic event, or class/graduation activity), or in which the student does not directly participate but represents the school or student body simply by attending (e.g., spectator at a school event).

  7. Student Possession – Any item in the possession or under the control of a student, including, but not limited to, athletic bags, backpacks, personal electronic devices, lunch boxes, purses, wallets, or vehicles.

IV. Standards

  1. The authority of school officials to search a student or a student’s possessions applies to all students when on school property or at school-related activities for the purpose of preserving order and safety in the schools.

  2. Authorized HCPSS employees performing searches will conduct the search in accordance with the constitutional, statutory, and other legal rights of the student.

  3. School officials are authorized to search a student if the Authorized Searcher has a reasonable belief that the student has in the student’s possession an item, the possession or use of which is a criminal offense under the laws of Maryland, or a violation of any other state law or any rule or regulation of the HCPSS.

  4. A search of a student will be made in the presence of a third party. If the Authorized Searcher is in fear of imminent bodily injury to self or others, a search may be made before a third party arrives.

  5. School officials will notify students at the beginning of each year that school officials have the authority to search students and their property.

  6. Students are protected by the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure of students and their possessions by school officials.

V. Responsibilities

  1. The Superintendent/Designee will facilitate training for all school administrators annually of the provisions and implementation of this policy.

  2. School administrators will ensure that staff reviews this policy annually.

  3. The Superintendent/Designee will ensure that students and parents are provided annual notice of the authority of school officials to search students.

  4. Authorized Searchers may search a student if the Authorized Searcher has a reasonable belief that the student has in the student’s possession an item, the possession or use of which is a criminal offense under the laws of Maryland, or a violation of any other state law or any rule or regulation of the HCPSS.

VI. Delegation of Authority

The Superintendent is authorized to develop procedures for the implementation of this policy.

VII. References

  • U.S. Constitution, Fourth Amendment, Search and Seizure

  • The Annotated Code of Maryland, Education Article, Section 7-308 (Searches in Schools)

  • COMAR 13A.08.01.14, Search and Seizures

C. Relevant Data Sources

  • Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Discipline Summary Reports

D. Other

VIII. History

REVIEWED:

MODIFIED:

REVISED: June 12, 2014

ADOPTED: May 11, 2006

EFFECTIVE: July 1, 2014