Code of Conduct
Section XIII: Searches and investigations
The Board of Education is committed to ensuring an atmosphere on school property and at school functions that is safe and orderly. To achieve this kind of environment, any school official authorized to impose a disciplinary penalty on a student may question a student about an alleged violation of law or the district Code of Conduct.
Students are not entitled to any sort of “Miranda”-type warning before being questioned by school officials, nor are school officials required to contact a student’s parent/guardian before questioning the student. However, school officials will tell all students why they are being questioned.
In addition, the board authorizes the superintendent, building principals, assistant principals, the school nurse and district security officials to conduct searches of students and their belongings, in most instances with exceptions set forth below, if the authorized school official has reasonable suspicion to believe that the search will result in evidence that the student violated the law or the district Code of Conduct.
An authorized school official may conduct a search of a student’s belongings that is minimally intrusive, such as touching the outside of a book bag, without reasonable suspicion, so long as the school official has a legitimate reason for the very limited search.
An authorized school official also may search a student or the student’s belongings based upon information received from a reliable informant. Individuals, other than the district employees, will be considered reliable informants if they have previously supplied information that was accurate and verified, or they make an admission against their own interest, or they provide the same information that is received independently from other sources, or they appear to be credible and the information they are communicating relates to an immediate threat to safety. District employees will be considered reliable informants unless they are known to have previously supplied information that they knew was not accurate.
Before searching a student or the student’s belongings, the authorized school official should attempt to get the student to admit that the student possesses physical evidence that the student violated the law or the district Code of Conduct, or get the student to voluntarily consent to the search. Searches will be limited to the extent necessary to locate the evidence sought.
Whenever practical, searches will be conducted in the privacy of administrative offices and students will be present when their possessions are being searched. Searches will be conducted in the presence of two adults whenever possible.
Student lockers, desks, and other school storage places
The rules in this Code of Conduct regarding searches of students and their belongings do not apply to student lockers, desks and other school storage places. Students have no reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to these places and school officials retain complete control over them. This means students’ lockers, desks, and other school storage places may be subject to search at any time by school officials without prior notice to students and without their consent.
Under no circumstances will any school personnel conduct a strip search of any other person. For the purposes of this section, requiring the removal of an outer coat or jacket, or shoes and socks, shall not constitute a strip search. In the unlikely event that such a thorough search is warranted, the police should be summoned to the scene.
Metal detector screenings
Schools in the City School District of Albany may be equipped with walk-through metal detectors, and/or hand-held “wand” metal detectors. The board may obtain portable walk-through units or hand-held wand units that are available for use in the schools or other buildings on request. School officials may utilize metal detectors to search students’ book bags, purses and other personal belongings in appropriate circumstances.
For purposes of this policy, a “metal-detector screening” means the use of metal detectors (walk-through units or hand-held wand units) on the students entering a school facility or their belongings on a given date.
The following types of metal-detector screenings authorized by this policy:
- Unscheduled random screenings: Random metal-detector screenings are an effective and necessary means of detecting and deterring the possession of weapons, and preventing their consequences, principally student violence, from occurring on school premises. Random screenings are screenings that are not conducted on a regularly scheduled basis, and are not necessitated by particularized safety concerns or special events. The superintendent or his/her designee or school officials may authorize metal-detector screenings on randomly chosen days during a specified period of the day, using school personnel to operate the metal detectors available to their school (any combination of walk-through units and/or hand-held wands).
- “As-needed” screenings: The superintendent or his/her designee or school officials may authorize metal-detector screenings on days chosen to address particular safety concerns (such as recent violence in the neighborhood) or on days on which special events (such as athletic competitions) are held, using school personnel to operate the metal detectors available to the school (any combination of walk-through units and/or hand-held wands).
- Daily random screenings: The superintendent or his/her designee or school officials may authorize daily metal-detector screenings using school personnel to operate the metal detectors available to their school (any combination of walk-through units and/or hand-held wands). Daily random searches shall involve searches of a randomly selected segment of the entire student body attending a particular school or schools.
Metal detector activation by anyone subject to a search under this section may constitute reasonable suspicion to justify a more intrusive individualized search.
If metal detector activation results in the discovery of contraband, such activation and discovery shall be documented in a timely manner in accordance with this Code of Conduct as well as applicable state laws and regulations.
The authorized school official conducting the search shall be responsible for promptly recording the following information about each search:
- Name, age, and grade of student searched;
- Reasons for the search;
- Name of any informant(s);
- Purpose of search (that is, what item(s) were being sought);
- Type and scope of search;
- Persons conducting searches and their titles and positions;
- Witnesses, if any, to the search;
- Time and location of search;
- Results of search (that is, what items(s) were found);
- Disposition of items found; and
- Time, manner, and results of parental notification
The building principal or the principal’s designee shall be responsible for the custody, control and disposition of any contraband, illegal or dangerous item taken from a student. The principal or the principal’s designee shall clearly label each item taken from the student and retain control of the item(s), until the item(s) is disposed of or turned over to the police. The director or assistant director of safe schools and violence prevention shall be responsible for personally delivering contraband, dangerous or illegal items to police authorities and such items may not be returned to the student or family.
All authorized district staff have the authority to investigate the suspected consumption or use of alcohol or illegal substances on school property or at a school function. Such investigations may include (but are not limited to):
- Searching student lockers, desks, and other storage spaces;
- Searching student clothing;
- Questioning students;
- Conducting prescreening tests (e.g. examining coordination, mannerisms, speech); and
- Using hand-held breath-test devices
District officials are committed to cooperating with police officials and other law enforcement authorities to maintain a safe school environment. Police officials may enter school property or a school function to question or search a student or to conduct a formal investigation involving students only if they have:
- A search or an arrest warrant or other court order authorizing the student’s removal; or
- Probable cause to believe a crime has been committed on school property or at a school function.
Before police officials are permitted to question or search any student, the principal or his or her designee shall first try to notify the student’s parent to give the parent the opportunity to be present during the police questioning or search. If the student’s parent cannot be contacted prior to the police questioning or search, the questioning or search shall not be conducted, unless the student is 16 years of age or older. The principal or designee will also be present during any police questioning or search of a student on school property or at a school function.
Students who are questioned by police officials on school property or at a school function will be afforded the same rights they have outside the school. This means:
- They must be informed of their legal rights.
- They may remain silent if they so desire.
- They may request the presence of an attorney.