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.
It's sure good to see Congress overturning fundamental Constitutional principles on a voice vote. Here is a good libertarian poll question: Which do you think will be used more often in the next five years as an excuse to pare down the Bill of Rights, the "war on drugs" or the "war on terrorism"?