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Petaluma City Schools |  BP  5145.12  Students

Search And Seizure   

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The Board of Education is fully committed to promoting a safe learning environment and, to the extent possible, eliminating the possession and use of weapons, illegal drugs, alcohol, and other controlled substances by students on school premises and at school activities. As necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of students and staff, school officials may search students, their property, and/or district property under their control and may seize illegal, unsafe, or otherwise prohibited items found during such searches.

(cf. 0450 - Comprehensive Safety Plan)

(cf. 3515 - Campus Security)

(cf. 3515.3 - District Police/Security Department)

(cf. 5131 - Conduct)

(cf. 5131.7 - Weapons and Dangerous Instruments)

(cf. 5144.1 - Suspension and Expulsion/Due Process)

The Board expects employees to exercise discretion and good judgment in determining when to conduct a search and in how to carry out a search. When conducting a search or seizure of and with a student, employees shall act in accordance with law, Board policy, and administrative regulation.

(cf. 0410 - Nondiscrimination in District Programs and Activities)

(cf. 1312.1 - Complaints Concerning District Employees)

(cf. 5145.3 - Nondiscrimination/Harassment)

The Superintendent or designee shall ensure that staff who ordinarily conduct student searches receive training regarding the requirements of the district's policy and administrative regulation and other legal issues, as appropriate.

(cf. 4131 - Staff Development)

(cf. 4231 - Staff Development)

(cf. 4331- Staff Development)

Individual Searches

School officials may search any individual student, his/her property, or district property under his/her control when there is a reasonable suspicion that the search will uncover evidence that he/she is violating the law (including the provisions of Education Code 48900 et. Seq.), Board policy, administrative regulation, or other rules of the district or the school. Reasonable suspicion shall be based on specific and objective facts that the search will produce evidence related to the alleged violation. The types of student property that may be searched by school officials include, but are not limited to, lockers, desks, purses, backpacks, student vehicles parked on district property, cellular phones, or other electronic communication devices (including messages sent to and from electronic devices and related records and files or links saved on said devices).

Any search of a student, his/her property, or district property under his/her control shall be limited in scope and designed to produce evidence related to the alleged violation. Factors to be considered by school officials when determining the scope of the search shall include the potential danger to the health or safety of students or staff, such as the possession of weapons, drugs, alcohol, or other dangerous instruments, and whether the item(s) to be searched by school officials are reasonably related to evidence of contraband related to the scope of the search. In addition, school officials shall consider the intrusiveness of the search in light of the student's age, gender, and the nature of the alleged violation.

Employees shall not conduct strip searches or body cavity searches of any student (Education Code 49050). Employees may contact law enforcement if it's believed that such a search is necessary to preserve the health and safety of staff and students.

Searches of individual students shall be conducted in the presence of at least two district employees.

The principal or designee shall notify the parent/guardian of a student subjected to an individualized search by staff as soon as possible after the search.

(cf. 5145.11 - Questioning and Apprehension by Law Enforcement)

Searches of Multiple Student Lockers/Desks

All student lockers and desks are the property of the district. The principal or designee may conduct a general inspection of any school properties that are within the control of students, such as lockers and desks, on a regular, announced basis, with students standing by their assigned lockers or desks. Any items contained in a locker or desk shall be assumed to be the property of the student to whom the locker or desk was assigned.

Use of Metal Detectors

The Board believes that the presence of weapons in the schools threatens the district's ability to provide the safe and orderly learning environment to which district students and staff are entitled. The Board also believes that metal detector searches offer a reasonable and minimally intrusive means to keep weapons out of the schools and mitigate the fears of students and staff.

The Superintendent or designee may use metal detectors at district schools as necessary to help ensure a safe learning environment. He/she shall establish a plan to ensure that

metal detector searches are conducted in a uniform and consistent manner.


If a staff member has a reasonable suspicion that a student is under the influence of alcohol, the student may be required to submit to a breathalyzer test. The parent or guardian will be notified of the results of any such test and the basis of the suspicion will be shared with the parent.

Use of Contraband Detection Dogs

In an effort to keep the schools free of potentially dangerous contraband, the district may use specially trained and capable, nonaggressive dogs to sniff out and alert staff to the presence of substances prohibited by law or Board policy.

The dogs may sniff around lockers, desks, or vehicles on district property or at district-sponsored events. Dogs shall not sniff within the close proximity of students or other persons and may not sniff any personal items on those persons without either a reasonable suspicion or the consent of the individual.

Legal Reference:


32280-32289 School safety plans

35160 Authority of governing boards

35160.1 Broad authority of school districts

48900-48927 Suspension and expulsion

49050-49051 Searches by school employees

49330-49334 Injurious objects


626.9 Firearms

626.10 Dirks, daggers, knives or razor


Article I, Section 28(c) Right to Safe Schools


Redding v. Safford Unified School District, (9th Cir. 2008) 531 F.3d 1071

B.C. v. Plumas, (9th Cir. 1999) 192 F.3d 1260

Jennings v. Joshua Independent School District, (5th Cir. 1989) 877 F.2d 313

O'Connor v. Ortega, (1987) 480 U.S. 709

New Jersey v. T.L.O., (1985) 469 U.S. 325

Horton v. Goose Creek Independent School District, (5th Cir. 1982) 690 F.2d 470

Zamora v. Pomeroy, (10th Cir. 1981) 639 F.2d 662


83 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 257 (2001)

75 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 155 (1992)

Management Resources:


The Appropriate and Effective Use of Security Technologies in U.S. Schools: A Guide for Schools and Law Enforcement Agencies, 1999



California Attorney General's Office:

California Department of Education, Safe Schools:

National Institute of Justice:


adopted: June 25, 2002 Petaluma, California

revised: March 13, 2012