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Supreme Court Decisions Relating to School Safety, Discipline and Harassment

This KnowledgeBase archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.

There are several U.S. Supreme Court cases addressing school safety, discipline and harassment. They set the legal foundation for school safety and discipline addressing student due process, searches and seizures in schools and drug testing on student athletes and sexual harassment. A summary of each decision with a link to more detailed information follows.

Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975)

The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional rights of suspended students to due process through notice and a hearing. Subsequent cases have established the rule that if a student is to be suspended or expelled from school for more than 10 days, the school must hold a hearing and provide due process to the student.

New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985)

The U.S. Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment applies to searches and seizures in schools. However, the Court declined to require probable cause or a search warrant before a student could be searched. Instead, the legality of a search of a student should depend simply on the reasonableness, under all the circumstances, of the search. According to the Court, school officials can search a student "when there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of the school. Such a search will be permissible in its scope when the measures adopted are reasonably related to the objectives of the search and not excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction." The search must pass a two part test: (1) the school official must have good reason to believe evidence of wrongdoing will be found, and (2) the search must not be more intrusive than necessary to find the item the school expects to find.

Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton, 115 S.Ct. 2386 (1995)

The U.S. Supreme Court held that schools may conduct drug testing on student athletes. The Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment permitted a school policy that prevented students from participating in interscholastic sports unless they agree to random drug testing.

Gebseret AL. v. Lago Vista Independent School District 96-1866 (1998)

At issue was whether a public school district is liable for a teacher's sexual harassment of a pupil. On a 5-4 decision the justices ruled that school districts are not responsible if teachers sexually harass or abuse students and school administrators do not know about it.

Davis vs. Monroe County Board of Education 97-843 (1999)

Petitioner filed suit against respondents, a county school board (Board) and school officials, seeking damages for the sexual harassment of her daughter LaShonda by G. F., a fifth-grade classmate at a public elementary school. Among other things, petitioner alleged that respondents' deliberate indifference to G. F.'s persistent sexual advances toward LaShonda created an intimidating, hostile, offensive, and abusive school environment that violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The court held that a private Title IX damages action may lie against a school board in cases of student-on-student harassment, but only where the funding recipient is deliberately indifferent to sexual harassment, of which the recipient has actual knowledge, and that harassment is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.

Source: U.S. Supreme Court

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