Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies

Lynn MacAusland, Skyline High School, Idaho Falls, ID


Appropriate for grades 7-12.

OVERVIEW:  One of the most engaging topics for students is t´eir
legal rights within a school setting.  The Supreme Court case New
Jersey v. T.L.O. is a perfect vehicle for a discussion of student
rights, search and seizure issues and the "delicate balance"
between individual freedoms and society's needs.

PURPOSE:  The purpose of these activities are three-fold.  A
simple simulation inspired by a teacher's guide to a government
text engages students in a search and seizure activity that allows
an exploration of students' rights within a school setting.  It
also leads them into the issues of individual freedoms and
society's needs.  Finally, it requires the investigation of search
and seizure case law.

OBJECTIVES:  Students will be able to (orally or in writing):

 1.  Compare how different people react to a situation.

 2.  Explain why innocent people do have something to lose when

 3.  List the specific provisions within the Fourth Amendment.

 4.  Identify school policy and student legal rights.

 5.  Differentiate between student rights within a school setting
     and adult rights.

 6.  List exceptions to the search warrant requirements.

 7.  Explain how individual freedoms can conflict with society's

ACTIVITIES:  Have students imagine that you have taken the entire
class to the library to do research on the Constitution.  The
girls take their purses with them.  At the end of class, one girl
screams, "Someone took my wallet!"  The only person who could have
taken it was in the class.

Break the class into six groups.  They are to answer questions
posed to them as if they were:

 A.  The guilty student
 B.  An innocent boy
 C.  An innocent girl
 D.  A girl with a controlled substance on her person
 E.  A boy with chewing tobacco and cigarettes (illegal in school)
 F.  The girl who lost the wallet

Pose the following questions for brainstorming and consensus:

 A.  Should a search of everyone occur?  Explain.
 B.  Who should conduct the search, if one does take place?  Does
     it make a difference?
 C.  Decide what you will do if a search of all is conducted.
 D.  Is the Constitution involved here?  Explain.

When students are ready have each group answer question A and then
do the same for questions B-D.  You should generate "I'm innocent
and have nothing to fear."  Explore that with the students (Should
law enforcement be allowed to search when/where they want because
innocent people have nothing to fear?  Wouldn't that cut down on
crime?)  You should also get the clever criminal who dumps the
wallet and hides the money in a book.  (How would the class feel
having been subjected to a search that ultimately reveals
nothing?)  Ask the innocent girl or boy how they would feel if
coincidentally they have similar denominations on them.  Would
they still be comfortable with a search?  What about the students
who possess illegal items?  Should they get in trouble for what is
discovered on them?

Finally, pursue the constitutional angle.  What does the
Constitution say?  Should a search of everyone be conducted
immediately?  Does the Fourth Amendment apply to students?  Do
school officials need a warrant?  Are they "police"?  What would
be the most efficient way the solve this?  Is that the most just
way?  Raise the concept of individual freedoms conflicting with
society's needs.

RESOURCES/MATERIALS NEEDED:  Copy of the Constitution.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER:  Students should now appreciate the
constitutional provisions of the Fourth Amendment and how the
Court can take the clear language and find exceptions that pass
constitutional muster.  Have them relive their simulation and the
circumstances of T.L.O.  Can they defend being treated differently
in a school setting?  An essay on some aspect of one of the
balancing acts could tie it all together.  Or the guest visit by
an administrator or school lawyer or ACLU attorney would be a fine
culminating activity.  Perhaps they could be given the simulation
and brainstorm the reactions.


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