Yesterday, Students for Sensible Drug Policy reports, the House approved the Student and Teacher Safety Act of 2006, which threatens to withhold federal funding from public schools that do not allow broad student searches for flimsy reasons, by a voice vote. The bill applies to any "search by a full-time teacher or school official, acting on any reasonable suspicion based on professional experience and judgment, of any minor student on the grounds of any public school, if the search is conducted to ensure that classrooms, school buildings, school property and students remain free from the threat of all weapons, dangerous materials, or illegal narcotics."
An earlier version of the bill used the newfangled standard of "colorable suspicion," which I reasonably suspect would have amounted to little more than a hunch. The new standard is stricter in theory, and the bill stipulates that "the measures used to conduct any search must be reasonably related to the search's objectives, without being excessively intrusive in light of the student's age, sex, and the nature of the offense." Would this allow a mass search of the entire student body if, say, a teacher suspects that one or two kids have been smoking pot and is determined to root out the school's marijuana ring? No doubt these details will be settled in litigation. Since such litigation can be costly, it's not surprising that the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of School Administrators, and the National School Boards Association have come out against the bill.