New student locker search law in effect

Districts must formulate, enforce policies by October deadline

On May 1, Gov. Engler signed a bill that attempts to define and clarify the proper procedures for conducting locker searches in Michigan public schools.

Public Act 87 of 2000, which took effect immediately upon receiving the governor's approval, states that "a pupil who uses a locker that is the property of a school district . . . is presumed to have no expectation of privacy in that locker or that locker's content." In general, courts have held that the higher the expectation of privacy, the greater the justification needed by government employees to make a lawful search.

The bill requires school boards to adopt a policy on searches of pupils' lockers and locker contents within 180 days of passage, which is Oct. 27, 2000. The policy must state that, in the course of a search conducted pursuant to the policy, "the privacy rights of the pupil shall be respected regarding any items that are not illegal or against school policy." The school boards must supply students and their parents with a copy of the school's new policy. At the end of July, the superintendent of public instruction made available a model policy which local school boards may adopt.

Once the policy is implemented, the statute permits a public school principal or his or her designee to search a student's locker and contents at any time, as long as the published policy is followed. Any law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the school may assist the school personnel.

The law provides that "any evidence obtained as a result of a search of a pupil's locker . . . shall not be inadmissible in any court because the search violated this section, violated the board approved policy or because no policy was adopted."

The text of the bill can be read at the following Web site: http://www.michiganlegislature.org/mileg.asp?page=getobject&objname=2000-PA-0087