TLO Argument Paper

I'm doing this for English and I just need some feedback. It's not my normal genre, but I hope you like it.

In 1980 there was a case at Piscataway High School in New Jersey where the vice principle, Theodore Choplick, searched a girl for cigarettes after she denied smoking them after she and another girl had been caught smoking in the bathroom.  The other girl confessed, but TLO denied smoking them, or of smoking at all.   After he found the cigarettes he saw a pack of rolling papers in her bag as well, and searched the bag further, believing the papers as a sign of marijuana. He ended up finding a small amount of marijuana, and evidence that stated that TLO had been dealing marijuana at the school. TLO was taken to the police station.  Choplick gave the evidence to the police.  At the police station she admitted that she had been dealing marijuana.  As a result of both the evidence and her confession, the state of New Jersey charged TLO with delinquency charges against her in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Middlesex County.  TLO attempted to have the evidence suppressed, saying that the search violated the 4th amendment.  The case went up all the way to the Supreme Court.    

I believe that both of the searches were unjustified.  The first search was unjustified because he did not search the girl who admitted that she was smoking.  The second search was unjustified because seeing the rolling papers did not give him a “probable cause” to search the bag further.  Once he found the cigarettes his search was done.  He searched further at the sight of the rolling papers, on an assumption that she was dealing with marijuana.  Assumption and/or suspicion are not a probable cause.  The 4th amendment states: “...and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation...”  Choplick did not have a warrant, nor could he ever receive a warrant.  Therefore, he had no right to search TLO’s bag.  If he had wanted a search to be done, he should have let someone with more authority judge if the bag needed to be searched.  The definition of Oath or affirmation is: “A solemn and formal declaration of the truth of a statement.”  You cannot declare an assumption, and assumption cannot be declared true until it is tried and proven as a fact.  Therefore the search also defies the “Oath or affirmation” part of the 4th amendment.  

However, we know that TLO had lied, and Choplick had a need to prove that she was smoking.  The teacher saw TLO smoking.  When she denied Choplick, he had a reason to be suspicious.  We all know lying is a bad thing, and everybody is against it, but the law says that you have to have “probable cause” to search.  If we’re arguing that the LAW justifies the search, then it was unjustified.  Just because Choplick knew that she had lied, seeing that a teacher was witness, didn’t give him a probable cause because lying is not, strictly speaking, against the law.

But the law does state that TLO has a right to her privacy, as do all students.  In an article called: Recent Court Rulings Regarding Student Use of Cell Phones in Schools there’s a story about a teacher confiscating a phone. “While in the teachers possession, a text message appeared requesting marijuana.  The school officials accessed the student’s text messages and voice mail and used the phone’s instant messaging function in attempt to determine what other students were involved.”  In doing this the school was violating the students privacy rights.  The TLO case is similar.  The vice principle demanded to see her purse and searched through it without TLO’s permission, as did the school with the student’s phone.  There was another case in Arizona similar to this.  “Redding was strip-searched by school officials after a fellow student accused her of providing prescription-strength ibeprofen pills.”-CNN  The girl, Redding ended being clean.  They strip-searched her because of a false-accusation.  Redding had a right to her physical privacy.  When the officials demanded that she strip to be searched was violating her rights.  TLO has the same privacy rights when dealing with her possessions.  It is her person, and schools need permission to search.  

But Choplick had a reason to be suspicious after finding the rolling papers. Rolling papers were especially suspicious, considering that she had lied about smoking in the bathroom, which was against the school rules.Why wouldn’t she just smoke in the designated area?  Because she didn’t, it seemed as though she had something to hide. But merely thinking that she had something to hide did not necessarily give him a  “reasonable suspicion”, which is: “A carefully considered presumption, based on specific facts and circumstances, that a person is probably involved in criminal activity.  Before an officer can act on this level of suspicion, he must have enough knowledge to lead any reasonably cautious person to conclude that a crime has been (or is about to be) committed by the suspect.”  The pack of rolling papers was not enough evidence for Choplicks further search to be based on “reasonable suspicion.” He therefore had no good reason to search TLO’s bag further after the cigarettes were found.     

The End

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