The Fragile Line Between Student Privacy and School Jurisdiction

Written by on December 24, 2013 in Family - No comments | Print this page

student in school

Student in school

Contemporary school systems are not like they once were. Violence in schools and other high-profile areas have resulted in the implementation of detailed student management programs in an effort to combat the threat to the general student body and school staff.

Every state requires each child to complete an approved education program or attend a certified school before reaching adulthood. School local administrators often deal over the years with all system jurisdiction residents in many school systems, especially in small communities or counties.

However, larger cities with colleges and high schools maintaining large enrollments often have problems with security and discipline. There is a fine line between managing a secure school system and observing all student rights, including the right to privacy.


Strict school policy on college campuses is the current norm, as all colleges maintain a police force of some type. State universities employ campus police officers, but their court authority is also state level, so being charged for a criminal offense at a university is a very serious issue.

Of course, many students live on campus in college and they are technically on state property. A reasonable expectation of privacy can easily be reduced by strict policing of the campus with the university maintaining the right to enter a student’s room at any time.

Being caught with contraband on college campuses can also result in criminal charges because the students are prosecuted as adults. However, even with school policy and state law, search and seizure violations could easily occur with implementation of strict school policy.

For instance, University of Minnesota-Duluth students are subject to disciplinary actions if for off-campus indiscretions. With mixed reviews regarding this statute, the important thing to remember is that schools ultimately want to keep students safe. In instances where students are expelled for behavior the school deems unacceptable, legal advice and resources from sites like may be a good move.

Secondary Schools

Many secondary schools have established strict school policies with respect to contraband and behavior, as school administrators often implement a “no tolerance” policy when dealing with student discipline. Sometimes the policies are over-reaching and arbitrary. The justification for extreme school policy is always student and faculty safety, but situations can stretch beyond reasonable applications.

Expelling students for incidents that occur off campus and outside school hours can easily be a breach of student privacy for pupils who are still in secondary education. This thin line can also apply to college institutions, especially with respect to on-campus statues.

Elementary Schools

Senseless school action involving student privacy also occurs regularly at the elementary level. Elementary school officials often appear to be considering the children in the same light with the adolescent and collegiate students.

The Rutherford Institute has published reports of several children being expelled for having plastic toy guns at school. In addition, various incidents of expelling secondary students has also been an issue. With the current interest in plastic guns that function as a real weapon, this scenario may become even more problematic in the near future, blurring the lines of privacy and jurisdiction again.

It is the unfortunate truth that many violent acts have occurred at schools across the United States, but the problems are not always initiated by students. Violence in schools occurs from a variety of sources, often resulting from micro issues for unstable individuals.

This activity leaves education officials feeling particularly vulnerable in the event that something tragic could happen at their school, regardless of the perpetrator, but the natural reaction can also be over-reaction. Student privacy still should be considered as a primary focus when assessing appropriate school security needs.

Jamica Bell is a freelance writer. She contributes this article as a way to highlight the repercussions of not understanding the boundaries between a student’s personal life and school jurisdictions. During her research, she found to be very helpful and informative for students adversely affected by this unfortunate situation.


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