New Jersey v. T.L.O case impacted the way search is conducted in schools and established the reasonable search that does not contradict with the Fourth Amendment if a suspicion of criminal activity is present. The U.S. Supreme court ruled in New Jersey v. T.L.O is effective January 15th, 1985.


The background of the case: The teacher caught two girls smoking in the bathroom in Piscataway New Jersey school and took them to the principal’s office. One of the girls admitted smoking, and the other one denied it, stating that she had not been smoking. The principal demanded to see her purse and found the signs of her selling marijuana. As he meticulously searched through her bag after he found rolling papers, he found a pipe, an index card with the list of people who owed money, along with the marijuana and cigarettes.

Therefore, the state of New Jersey brought charges against her due to the evidence found and her further confession. During the hearing in the Juvenile court, the T.L.O. argued that the Fourth Amendment had been violated. The Fourth Amendment was the part of the Bill of Rights that ensured to secure citizens from unreasonable search and seizures. The Juvenile court decided to sentence the student to year probation.

As the Juvenile court sided with school and found her guilty, she investigated the case to the Supreme Court of New Jersey. Even though the Supreme Court did not confirm the violation of the Fourth Amendment, they decided that the search was unnecessary, and evidence could not be used in this case. Finally, the U.S. Supreme court voted 6-3 that the search was constitutional. Therefore, U.S. Supreme court reversed the ruling of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, and the majority supported the school, as standards of school principals differ from police officers.

The court’s decision: The v T.L.O. case established the legal Principle that applies when there is a reasonable grounding of suspecting that students in school violated the law. This particular case had a solid reason as the principal had the basis for assuming that the student broke the school rules as the other girl confessed that she was smoking. Moreover, the principal found rolling papers in her bag, which is associated with marijuana consumption.

Therefore, the court ruled that the school should maintain a healthy learning environment. That is why it should keep the balance between student’s safety and privacy and the school’s legitimate needs. The court decided that school officials are not required to obtain a search warrant before searching a student. Instead, they are required to use legit reasoning for such searchers and conduct them only in cases of possible delinquency. The issue is that there is no clear distinguishment of the legit reasoning, and every case, similar to the T.L.O, can cause certain disagreements in the court.

The concurring opinion argued that the level of student protection should not be equal to adults. The New Jersey T.L.O case has an impact on all the schools as it relates to every student who brings a backup nowadays. The Supreme Court recognizes the need for privacy and provides it to the students. However, reasoning plays a primary role in the decision on whether the search is necessary. Therefore, if the school officer is assuming that the student violated the rules, he has the right to search his bag without a search warrant, and this search will not count as a Fourth Amendment violation.