Arrested Development: Rethinking Fourth Amendment Standards for Seizures and Uses of Force in Schools
56 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2018
Date Written: July 5, 2018
Fourth Amendment standards regarding seizures and uses of force against juveniles in schools require a critical reassessment. Although jurists and scholars have paid it scant attention, this branch of Fourth Amendment doctrine offers a valuable lens for understanding the school-to-prison pipeline and the power of law enforcement officers to detain, handcuff, and use force against schoolchildren. While the Supreme Court has announced principles regarding the Fourth Amendment in schools generally, it has never addressed this issue directly.
This Article explores empirical findings on the role of law enforcement in schools and the unique characteristics of juveniles that should bear on Fourth Amendment “reasonableness” analyses. Police practices in schools often negatively impact not only the students subjected to them, but the entire school climate. Additionally, youth are more likely to be harmed by law enforcement tactics than adults. A review of lower court jurisprudence in this area reveals incoherence. Courts have taken a variety of approaches, often relying on faulty assumptions about law enforcement practices in schools. They frequently import bright-line rules from street-policing cases, which are inappropriate in the school context.
This Article proposes a recalibration of the “reasonableness” standard to reflect the Supreme Court’s admonitions that the school environment and age of the student matter. It suggests mandated consideration of objective factors that reflect the specific interests of youth in schools. This approach is workable and provides the flexibility needed to ensure substantive judicial review of troubling practices that deserve attention.
Keywords: school-to-prison pipeline, seizures, use of force
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