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Mike Carrell Introduces Bill That Allows School Resource Officers To Search Students

The 28th District senator says the measure is to "simply restore to a police officer, serving as a school resource officer, the right to search a student."

Under Washington law, if a school principal or other school employee has a reasonable suspicion to search a student he or she has the right to do so. However, a law-enforcement officer who is serving as a school resource officer cannot search a student without probable cause.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee listened to testimony Friday about a resolution that – if passed by the Legislature and approved by a vote of the people – would restore the reasonable-suspicion standard under which school resource officers are allowed to search students, which is the same standard afforded to school staff. Senate Joint Resolution 8203 is sponsored by Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood.

“This resolution would simply restore to a police officer, serving as a school resource officer, the right to search a student – authority that was taken away by a recent state Supreme Court decision,” Carrell said. “They would be considered no different from a school employee who already has that right, and they would take a huge load off teachers and principals who are not trained to the level of a professional law-enforcement officer.”

If a student tells a teacher that he or she saw another student put drugs into a locker, that teacher can inform the principal who can then search the student and the locker under the reasonable-suspicion standard. However, under the probable-cause standard, a school resource officer would have to physically observe the student with the drugs – not just a brown paper sack, but the actual drugs themselves – in order to detain and search the student.

“When I was a teacher I was present during the search of a student by the school’s principal,” Carrell continued. “That search uncovered a weapon and the student was punished appropriately for the time. And if the information that generated a reasonable suspicion for the principal had instead gone to a school resource officer, that officer would have been powerless to do anything until probable cause – a much higher standard – was established.”

During testimony it was pointed out that school resource officers are, in fact, police officers who undergo the same training as any other law enforcement official. Don Pierce, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, noted that a police officer is unlikely to be chosen to serve as a school resource officer until he or she has spent three to five years working the streets.

“Parents expect their children to be safe in schools, and it’s our duty to ensure an environment that is conducive to that,” Carrell added. “I believe any parent would trust a badge-carrying police officer at least as much as they trust a school official – and probably much more, which is why the state should restore the less-restrictive search standard to school resource officers.”

steve swortz January 26, 2013 at 07:40 PM
Does it seem odd to anyone else that they can not already do this?
Wade Stewart January 26, 2013 at 07:41 PM
I don't see how there is a problem that needs correcting here. School administration should be the first responder to issues going on INSIDE the school. They are already empowered to act and they are protected in doing so. Why spend time on fixing something that isn't a problem? We have a budget that is a clear and impending problem that needs attention.
steve swortz January 26, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Are you saying this will take away time from budget talks and is not worth spending time on?
Laura Gjuka January 26, 2013 at 09:30 PM
I'd be open to hearing an argument against this, Seems like a good thing to me.
Lance Orloff January 26, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Gosh, Thanks Mike. You're the man. Even if the cops cannot be. Seems that handicapping the cops but empowering untrained school "officials" is about as backwards as it gets. We have not had any real "national news" level incidents yet but without some plan in place to stop it, like giving power of law enforcement to the law enforcement personel, we are just biding our time till something blows up in our faces (Sandy Hook Elementary?). The lower level of violence bubbling under the surface was of sufficent concern to me and my family that we pulled our kids from public schools. Every time there is a public school shooting, we realize the wisdom in our decision. Unless we have real control over the violence or potential for violence, we are handing over our childrens safety to the ones who would harm our kids.
Brian Brickman January 27, 2013 at 12:06 AM
I wish I could afford private school. My step-son is in 4th grade in U.P. and even there, we are seeing the drugs and violence. The school officials won't deal with the problems. The cops say they will look into it and nothing happens. It is like no-one wants to admit to the problems. Maybe Mike Carrell can do something. Anything would be better than sweeping it under the carpet like they are doing right now. At least we are not in the Tacoma School District. I hear it is worse there.
Dane Ferrell January 27, 2013 at 01:04 AM
Well the cops should not be allowed to search anyone unless they are under arrest, nor should school officials be allowed to.
Dan January 27, 2013 at 01:19 AM
These are policemen, working for the city, assigned to the schools. You are giving them the authority to do something that would otherwise be illegal. If they suspect something, tell the principal. I would vote against anything that gives police any more power. #slipperyslope
Lance Orloff January 27, 2013 at 04:19 AM
February 27, 2012—Three students at Chardon High School in rural Ohio were killed when a classmate opened fire. April 2, 2012—A 43-year-old former student at Oikos University in Oakland, California, walked into his former school and killed seven people, “execution-style.” Three people were wounded. August 14, 2012—Three people were killed at Texas A&M University when a 35-year-old man went on a shooting rampage; one of the dead was a police officer. December 14, 2012—One man, and possibly more, murders a reported twenty-six people at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, including twenty children, before killing himself. A vote against allowing police to keep our kids safe is a vote to endanger our children. I actually want kids to live through childhood. And REALLY? The only thing police will do is stop drugs, violence, and crime. They don't use their power to harm children. Voting against allowing them to stop drugs, violence and crime is the same as saying you support drugs, violence, and crime. You become accessory to every child harmed by fighting against their protection.
Wade Stewart January 27, 2013 at 07:13 PM
January 11, 2013: Akron, OH officer breaks 13 year old girl's arm while detaining her after a tantrum in which she was damaging her papers and books. May 2009: Dolton, IL officer broke the nose of a special needs student while detaining him over an un-tucked shirt. August 23, 2011: Denver, CO Police handcuff a 50 pound 8 year old with autism for hours after he'd calmed down and refused to let the mother take him for a mental health examination, but transported him cuffed to the hospital in a patrol car. I'm not saying all police are guilty of these crimes, the vast majority are the best folks we could have in law enforcement, but as Mr. Orloff showed, there are exceptions and bad things happen. From the 4 events shown in a previous comment, only one by student-on-student violence, it would seem to me that our greater priority is to keep the firearms out of the hands of adults who have no business with them rather than unnecessarily doling out more apprehension and arrest powers.
sudee January 27, 2013 at 07:14 PM
Lance, that is all well and good until they start targeting kids they don't like or that don't look "right". It is a very slippery slope.
Lance Orloff January 28, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Mr. Stewart, I did not show, as you state, that there are bad cops that are the exception that cause bad things to happen. My list showed there are bad things that happen and if there was cops with the ability to enforce the law, there may have been less victims at Sandy Hook. My list showed death that was preventable if the cops were allowed to do there job. Your list shows non-lethal harm caused by the exceptions. Given the two situations, a few incidents of harm vs. mass murder, I would prefer the few incidents of harm. At least the children that were murdered last year would be alive. Incidentally, my list was exclusive to 2012. I did not need to span 2009 - 2013 to find the incidents of harm. Also, I would never condone taking firearms out of the hands of cops. That is the slippery slope to anarchy.
Lance Orloff January 28, 2013 at 12:50 AM
I would be surprised to find that any thoughtful person in University Place thinks that our cops would target anyone who does not look right unless "not looking right" means they show signs of drugs activity or violence. In that case, I would hope the cops would target anyone "looking" like they intend harm to our children. The only other "not looking right" that I can imagine would be racism and while I know one U.P. cop who is violently racist, I would never expect that even he would target our children. I think the slippery slope is the one where we don't respond to drugs, gangs, weapons in our schools. I accept that Washington State is liberal but children killing children is just way too liberal. Way too slippery slope.
Toni Aulerich January 28, 2013 at 05:24 PM
It's called "Probable Cause." If an officer is in the school and sees something suspicious is that officer going to call or run to school officials to come to the situation to search? I think not. Time is of essence in a situation where one questions legality.
Toni Aulerich January 28, 2013 at 05:25 PM
Dan, see the above reply
Dan January 28, 2013 at 07:30 PM
A police officer shouldn't be held to obey the law on one side of the street, and be allowed to break the law on the other side.

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