Street Law, Inc. and The Supreme Court Historical Society present

Landmark Cases of the U.S. Supreme Court

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School Searches: How far can schools go to search for illegal drugs? The Case of Safford v. Redding (2009)

In October 2003, school officials searched a middle school student for illegal drugs.  She sued the school district claiming the school conducted an unreasonable search.  Her case made headlines across the country and reached the Supreme Court. It is called Safford Unified School District v. Redding.

Directions

Your task is to work with a partner to conduct research about the case and the Court’s decision.  You are going to complete what is called a “case study.” 

You will find the information you need to complete the case study by searching these web-based resources:

At the conclusion of your research, write a case study (report) that follows this format and answers these questions:    

Facts:
  • What happened in this case?
  • Who are the parties?
  • What facts are important? Unimportant?
  • Is any significant information missing?
  • Why did the people involved act the way they did?
Issue:

What is the legal issue presented in this case?  In other words, what legal question must be answered in this case?   For example, does it violate students' First Amendment rights if their school censors a school-sponsored student newspaper? 

Arguments:
  • What are the main arguments presented by the student?  Do any precedent cases apply?  If so, summarize the Court’s decisions in those cases.
  • What are the main arguments presented by the school system? Do any precedent cases apply?  If so, summarize the Court’s decisions in those cases.
  • Which arguments are most persuasive? Least persuasive? Why?
  • What might be the consequences to the school system if the Court does not allow the type of search it conducted?  To the student?  To society?
Decision:
  • What did the Court decide? 
  • What were the main elements of the majority opinion? What reasons did it give for its decision?
  • If there was a concurring opinion what did it emphasize?
  • Was there a dissent?  If so, what were the main points presented in the dissenting opinion? 
Your Opinion:
  • Do you agree or disagree with the Court’s decision?  Explain your answer.
  • What do you think this decision means for society? 

Once you have completed this report, work with one classmate to discuss whether each of you agree or disagree with the Court’s decision and what each of you think this decision means for society.  Be ready to explain to your teacher which views you and your partner shared and which views you disagreed upon.

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