Can a school search a student’s belongings without their permission in Ohio?

No. In Ohio, a school needs reasonable suspicion to search a student’s belongings without their permission.  However, students don’t have the same protections in school as they would outside of it.  Normally, the government needs to show probable cause to get a search warrant.  However, the school does not need to get a search warrant to search a student’s belongings when they are on school grounds.  They only need to show reasonable suspicion.  

For example, if a teacher overhears a student talking about having weed in their backpack, that would give them the right to search the student’s backpack.

Another example would be if a school used a drug dog to sniff all the students’ lockers.  If the drug dog indicated that there were drugs in a particular locker, the school could search that locker.

Some schools will have signs that say all lockers are property of the school so they can be searched whenever the school deems necessary. However, this would be considered an illegal search.  Courts have said that these signs will not bypass students’ constitutional protections.

Can a school search a student’s unattended backpack?

Yes. A school official can search a student’s unattended backpack to make sure it is not dangerous. They can also search it in order to identify its owner.

However, if the official knows who owns the backpack, it can severely restrict their ability to search it. Most times, it’s very easy to ask another student to figure out who owns the backpack. 

Make sure that your rights have not been violated. If you, or your child, have had property searched while at school, call Attorney Andy Meis so he can assess your situation.


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