School district again tries to pass ‘random search’ policy that some call unconstitutional

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Volusia County School Board members will again attempt to pass a policy Tuesday that analysts believe is constitutionally dubious -- if not an outright violation of the Fourth Amendment.


The policy, billed as a safety measure, would allow district administrators to search students and visitors at “random and without cause.”

The district last attempted to pass this measure in 2022, but backed down after pressure from citizens, spearheaded by Moms for Liberty. Members of the group said it’s back on the table following concerns from some parents about weapons being brought into schools.

Under the Fourth Amendment, which covers public school administrators and employees, citizens may not have their privacy invaded by unreasonable searches and seizures.

The U.S. Supreme Court previously weighed in on its applications in schools in New Jersey v. T.L.O. Justices ruled that students give up some of their rights when on school grounds and administrators don’t need probable cause to conduct a search.

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In their ruling, though, the justices said administrators must have a “reasonable suspicion” that a search would turn up evidence of a crime or a policy violation.

The courts have yet to weigh in on the law’s application to adult visitors.

When contacted for comment, school district staff said the policy allowed them to search students and visitors with metal detectors, which is allowed under Florida law.

But the language of the policy does not specifically mention metal detectors. Under the current language of the proposal, bag and cell phone searches, pat downs and strip searches aren’t prohibited.

Staff did not push back on that characterization of the policy’s language.

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“The policy provides that students and visitors are placed on notice of searches,” spokeswoman Danielle Johnson said. “Should the policy change be approved, the district and schools will provide further communication updating families and staff of the details of the screenings.”

Johnson deferred all further comment to school board members.

One of the analysts that WFTV consulted ahead of Tuesday’s vote was Constitutional Law Attorney Lawrence Walters, who was among the experts that weighed in as the district debated the same policy in 2022.

Walters said the proposal treads on dangerous ground.

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“When a school board is making policy, particularly in an area that can tread on constitutional rights, they have an obligation to be specific, and not enact broad policies that can result in abuse,” he said. “If the school board is looking to institute metal detectors, then an appropriate policy would be one that allows metal detectors, as opposed to broad searches.”

Other Central Florida school districts allow students and visitors to be searched, but none of those policies allow those searches to be random and without cause.

The discussion will happen during the board’s 4:30 p.m. meeting.

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