New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985)
Students' rights in school searches and seizures
Decision Date: January 15, 1985
Background: In a New Jersey high school, a teacher found two girls smoking in the bathroom and took them to the principal's office. One girl admitted to smoking but the other, known as T.L.O., denied it. The principal demanded to see the girl's purse and found evidence that she was also selling marijuana at school. T.L.O. was taken to the police station where she admitted to selling marijuana. Based on her confession and the evidence in her purse, the state of New Jersey brought charges against her. In a juvenile court, T.L.O. argued that her Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures had been violated. The court sided with the school, and T.L.O. took her case to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which later found that the search was unreasonable and the evidence could not be used. The state of New Jersey appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court.
Decision: In 1985, the Supreme Court, by a 6-3 margin, ruled that New Jersey and the school had met a "reasonableness" standard for conducting such searches at school. The high court said school administrators don't need to have a search warrant or probable cause before conducting a search because students have a reduced expectation of privacy when in school.