Wash. Supreme Court Blocks Warrantless Searches By School Cops

Aug 2, 2012

A teacher or principal doesn’t need a warrant to search a student. But a police officer working in a school does, according to a new ruling from the Washington Supreme Court.

Six justices ruled that the warrantless search of a Bellevue high school student was illegal. That’s because the officer, who had already cuffed and arrested the student, was acting as a police officer and not as an agent of the school.

Attorney David Perez of the firm Perkins Coie wrote a brief on the student’s behalf.

Perez: "What we took away from this is that once police officers stationed in schools start acting like police officers, then constitutional principals still attach. Just because they’re students doesn’t make them any less of citizens."

Perez points out that the school is still free to impose its own punishments on the student. The Bellevue Police Department said only that officers will follow the court’s directives.

The ruling brings some clarity to the issue of cops in schools – a blurry area in the law. Similar cases have come up elsewhere, with the courts taking different sides in different states.

Copyright 2012 KPLU