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Administrative Searches – School Search – School Grounds Extended to Parking Lot

State v. Colin G. Schloegel, 2009 WI App 85
For Schloegel: Sarvan Singh

Issue/Holding1: School grounds are extended to the school parking lot, so that the test for searches of students, New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985), applies to search of a student’s car parked in the lot, ¶¶15-19.

Issue/Holding2: Search of student’s car in school parking lot was reasonable:

¶21      In this case, application of the T.L.O. two-prong test to the record facts leads to the conclusion that (1) the search was “justified at its inception,” and (2) the search of Schloegel’s car was “reasonably related in scope to” the search of contraband. See T.L.O., 469 U.S. at 341. The search was justified at its inception because school officials were put on alert that Schloegel was in possession that day of drugs, including pills and possibly some other substances. School officials must act on such a tip. “School officials not only educate students who are compelled to attend school, but they have a responsibility to protect those students and their teachers from behavior that threatens their safety and the integrity of the learning process.” Angelia D.B., 211 Wis. 2d at 157. Furthermore, Schloegel had a prior drug arrest on record, and Rudolph knew him from that previous arrest. Therefore, the decision to investigate further, and to search for contraband was reasonable at its inception. See, e.g., J.D. v. State, 920 So.2d 117, 122 (Fla. Ct. App. 2006) (holding that “[w]hen school authorities receive information, whether verified or not, involving illegal activities occurring on their campus, calling the suspect student out of class to investigate the report is a reasonable and minimal step in that investigation.”).

¶22      We also conclude that the search was reasonable in scope. Students who decide to bring drugs to school have many places to stash them, and the stated purpose and clear goal of this search was to discover whether Schloegel had contraband at school. A school official has the responsibility to keep students safe on school grounds, and as we have indicated, this includes school parking lots. When searches of Schloegel’s person, backpack and locker were cleared, it was a reasonable next step for school officials to take the search to Schloegel’s car.

 

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