In the Matter of T.A.S.

NJDC joined the ACLU of North Carolina and several other civil rights and juvenile justice organizations in filing a brief to the Supreme Court of North Carolina on behalf of T.A.S., a 15-year old public alternative school student who was searched on school grounds, arguing the search was unconstitutional. The search occurred when school officials, acting on a tip that students were carrying drugs, required every student in the school to submit to a search. All students were ordered into the lunchroom, which was secured as a “holding area” where students had to remain until called. The students, including T.A.S., were escorted into a classroom for a search in front of a number of people, including at least two men, one of whom was a school resource officer (police officer). The students had their outer clothing, socks, shoes, and bags searched, and were patted down. The girls were subjected to a more intrusive search:  each girl, including T.A.S., was made to loosen and untuck her shirt, pull the shirt out, shake it, and then using her hands, go underneath her shirt and pull her bra out from against her body.

Amici asked the Court to affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals finding that a blanket strip search of every student was constitutionally unreasonable where school officials lacked individualized suspicion as to which students were responsible for an alleged infraction and did not have any particularized reason to believe contraband sought presented an imminent threat to school safety. This case is of additional importance as it has broad implications for children who enter alternative school environments after being excluded from traditional schools due to suspension, expulsion and/or delinquency adjudications. Amici urged the Court to uphold the lower court’s decision that the search of T.A.S.’s bra was unconstitutional and that attendance at an alternative school does not justify a suspicionless search and to deny the State’s argument that individualized suspicion is not required in student searches.

Unfortunately, on October 5, 2012, the Court published an order vacating the decision of the Court of Appeals that had ruled in T.A.S.’s favor and remanded the case to the trial court for a rehearing on specific factual findings.

Court: Supreme Court of North Carolina
November 4, 2011 (download .pdf)
Amicus Brief Discusses: School Searches

Oral Argument: February 13, 2012
October 5, 2012