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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.”

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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