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502.6 Student Searches

Code 502.6

Student Searches

Prohibited Items.  In the interest of maintaining the health, safety and good order of the school environment, students shall not have prohibited items in their possession or control on school grounds, on school vehicles, or while attending or participating in school activities or events.  Prohibited items are such things as tobacco products, beer, wine, alcoholic beverages, controlled substances which have not been validly prescribed, "look alike" tobacco, alcoholic beverages or controlled substances, apparatus used for the administration of controlled substances, weapons, explosives, toy weapons or explosives, poisons, stolen property, or other devices or materials which are intended to interfere with school order.  Licensed school employees and other employees of the District employed for security or supervision purposes ("authorized personnel") may, without a warrant, search a student, a student's belongings, student lockers, automobiles on school property, desks, facilities, or work areas under the circumstances outlined below in order to maintain the safety, health, discipline and order of the school environment.

Personal Searches.

Reasonable Suspicion.  Searches of students, their clothing, pocketbooks, briefcases, book bags, duffel bags or other personal containers in the possession of or in the immediate proximity of the student, and searches of automobiles on school property shall be conducted only if there is a reasonable articulable suspicion that a criminal offense has been committed or a school rule has been violated by the student being searched and that the search will provide evidence of such violation.  The search shall be conducted in a manner which is reasonably related to the objectives of the search and shall not be excessively intrusive in light of the age and gender of the student and the nature of the infraction.  If the student is not present during the search, another adult shall be present and the student shall be notified of the search either prior to or as soon as reasonably practicable after the search is conducted.  Reasonable suspicion may be formed by considering such factors as:

           1.      Eye witness observations by school personnel; or

           2.      Information received from a reliable source; or

           3.      Suspicious behavior by the student; or

           4.      The student's past history; or

           5.      Articulable circumstantial evidence.

Reasonable Scope.  All searches of students or their belongings shall be reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which gave rise to the need for the search and shall be based upon consideration of relevant factors which include, but are not limited to:

           1.      The nature of the violation for which the search is being instituted;

           2.      The age or ages and gender of the students who may be searched;

           3.      The objectives to be accomplished;

           4.      The emergency requiring the search without delay.

Procedures.  Authorized personnel may ask a student to open and/or empty his/her pockets, handbag, briefcase, book bag, duffel bag, or other personal belonging when there is reasonable suspicion that the student has a prohibited item in his/her possession.  If the student fails to comply, an administrative staff member or his/her designee may search the student or the student's belongings, in the presence of another adult.  Searches which involve a pat-down of the student or which involve the removal of any clothing (e.g., jacket or socks) shall be conducted by a person of the same gender as the student and shall be conducted in private and in the presence of a witness of the same gender.  Except in cases of emergency (e.g., it is believed the student may harm himself/herself or others), other staff members shall not conduct a search.  Strip searches, body cavity searches and the use of a drug-sniffing animal to search a student's body shall not be allowed.  If a prohibited item is found in a personal search, appropriate disciplinary action may be taken.  Items which may be illegal to possess may be turned over to proper authorities.

Lockers, Desks and School Facilities.

Periodic Inspections.  Lockers, desks and other facilities and spaces remain at all times property of the District, even though temporarily assigned as a courtesy to students.  These facilities are subject to unannounced inspections, and students have no legitimate expectations of privacy in these facilities even though they may be locked.  Written notice shall be given annually to each student and his/her parents, guardians, or custodians that the District may conduct periodic inspections without prior notice of all or a randomly  selected number of school lockers, desks, and other facilities or spaces owned by the District and provided as a courtesy to students.  The inspection shall occur in the presence of the student or at least one other person.  If a prohibited item is found in a periodic inspection, the student may be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, and items which may be illegal to possess may be turned over to proper authorities.

Search.  An administrative staff member or his/her designee may search a locker, desk or other assigned facility or space when there is a reasonable suspicion the student has a prohibited item.  The student need not be present at the time of the search, but another person shall be present.  Other authorized personnel may request a student to open his/her locker, desk or other assigned facility or space and disclose its contents when there is a reasonable suspicion the student has a prohibited item in the facility.  Except in cases of emergency, nonadministrative staff personnel shall not search the locker, desk or other facility or space without the student's consent.  If a prohibited item is found in a search, the student may be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, and items which may be illegal to possess may be turned over to the proper authorities.

Searches by Law Enforcement Officials.  Law enforcement officials will not be allowed to search students, their belongings, desks, lockers or automobiles on school premises unless pursuant to an arrest, a valid warrant or other reason allowed by law.

Use of Dogs to Search School Property

The Superintendent of Schools may authorize, as part of an overall effort to maintain safe schools, the periodic use of narcotic detection dogs to alert staff to the presence of substances prohibited by law or Board policy.

The use of narcotic dogs is subject to the following:

           1.      The Superintendent or designee shall authorize the search and the Principal or his/her designee shall be present while the search is taking place.

           2.      Parents and students shall be notified in writing  of this policy at the beginning of each school year, through its inclusion in the student and/or parent handbook and/or on the District’s/school’s website.

           3.      All school property such as lockers, classrooms, parking areas and storage areas may be searched.

                            a.      Dogs shall not be used in rooms occupied by persons except for demonstration purposes with the handler present.

                           b.      When used for demonstration purposes, the dog may not sniff the person or any individual.

                           c.      The dogs may sniff the air around lockers, desks, or vehicles on District property or at District-sponsored events as long as they are not allowed to sniff within close proximity of any student’s person.

                           d.      Individual(s) shall not be subjected to a search by dogs. To avoid the potential of allergic reactions, dogs shall be kept away from the students.

           4.      Once notification has been given to parents and students, through the inclusion of the policies in the student/parent handbook and/or on the District’s/school’s website, the school district will have met its obligation to provide written notice of the searches. Additional notices need not be given and actual times or dates of planned searches need not be released in advance.

           5.      Only properly trained dogs that are handled by trained personnel shall be used for searches of school property.

           6.      Only the dog’s official handler will determine what constitutes an alert by the dog.  If a dog alerts on a locker and a search is subsequently conducted by school officials, the search will be conducted in the presence of the student(s) whose locker(s) is/are being searched or, in the absence of the student(s), the search shall be conducted in the presence of at least one other person. If a dog alerts on a locked vehicle, the student who brought it onto District property shall be asked to unlock it for a search conducted per procedure outlined in Board of Education Policy. An effort shall be made to protect the student’s privacy to the greatest degree possible.


Date of Last Review:  October 14, 2019

Date of Revision:

July 15, 2013                          



Legal References:


279.8, 279.9, 702.23, Chapter 808, Chapter 808A, 

Code of Iowa; 281 I.A.C. 12.3(6)