Balancing School Safety and Students’ Right to Privacy
Your Legal Corner will discuss "School Safety." For many families, getting ready for school meant shopping. Numerous conversations were held about finding just the right backpack and coordinating it with the just the right pencil case. Encouraging words such as: "lets make this the best school year ever" were echoed throughout the households as well. Rarely, however, were conversations held addressing school safety, except perhaps to fill out a who to contact card, in case of emergencies. Now is the time to discuss school safety with your child.
Current statistics show that parental fear regarding a child's safety in school comes in waves but actually lessens with time. When a school incident happens, parental concern rises. Interestingly, parental concerns were found to be less extreme with each new tragic event, according to the annual Gallup's Work and Education Poll.
Still, remembering past school incidents is important because it creates a healthy dose of concern, which helps to keep our children safe. What we learn from the past will determine the future. Educate your child about school safety.
Raising Awareness for School Safety
An organization creating awareness with regard to school safety is the "I Love U Guys" Foundation. The Foundation was created to restore security and protect our youth through educational programs and positive actions. The Keyes family started the Foundation after a gunmen entered Platte Canyon High School in Colorado in 2006, killing their daughter Emily Keyes, whose last text to her parents was "I Love You Guys."
This sad tragedy helped foster what is now known as the Standard Response Protocol for student safety. According to the Foundation, a critical ingredient in school safety is a uniform classroom response. For general information on the standard response protocol see Iloveuguys.org. For specific information, review your child's school policy in the event of an emergency. To that end, a school's duty to maintain a safe learning environment is balanced with a student's right to privacy.
Reasonable Ground For School Searches
The privacy rights of public school students were first addressed by the United States Supreme Court in the landmark Case of New Jersey v. T.L.O., which involved the search of a high school freshman's purse in 1980. Generally, the Court found a search is constitutionally justified if school officials have reasonable grounds, based on all the circumstances, for suspecting the search will reveal evidence that the student has violated or is violating the law or school rules. At the local level, Boards of Education are required to have policies and procedures in place that address reasonable grounds for searches.
Additionally, many schools now partner with law enforcement in order to enhance their safety and security. Likewise, most schools have a zero tolerance policy for violence and will contact law enforcement immediately for all hostile actions.
As the flurry of a new school year passes, now is the opportune time to review your school's policies and procedures with your child. Prepare them for the possibility of an emergency using age-appropriate discussions.
School safety is a balancing act that requires both the school and the student to follow the written protocol. Remember: awareness equals safety!
Till next week, God bless, keep smiling and remember who's in Your Legal Corner. Next week, YLC will discuss "Domestic Violence In The Community and What You Need To Know." Victoria M. Dalton is an Attorney Of Counsel with the Law Offices of Hoffman DiMuzio.
Call 856-845-8243 or see hoffmandimuzio.com for further information and to view other YLC articles. Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational articles about the law and is not legal advice!