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Debate

Opening:
Gabriel García Márquez once said, “All human beings have three lives: public,
private, and secret.”

We affirm the resolution which states in US public K-12 schools, the probable cause
standard ought to apply to searches of students.

We would like to define the following terms for clarification:


 Probable cause is a standard which allows police authorities to give reason to
obtain a warrant for searching a person or his/her property. It also applies to
arrests of a suspect.
 Currently, schools use “reasonable suspicion” which gives an officer the right to
search a student based on facts gathered.
 The phrase “Searches of students” means a student and his/her property is
thoroughly searched for possession of evidence that violates the law or school
rules

Main Argument 1: Privacy issues

Sub point A: Invasion of a student’s privacy leads to controversial issues between the
student and the public school system.
E: According to the United States Courts, two girls were caught smoking in the
bathroom. One girl confessed, but the other, known as T.L.O denied it. She was
searched by the principal and evidence was found that she was selling marijuana. In
juvenile court, T.L.O argued that her school conducted an unreasonable search and her
rights had been violated. The decision was taken to the Supreme Court and they said
schools don’t need probable cause or a search warrant (1985).
In 2009, Savannah, a 13 year old, was strip-searched by officials based on a rumor that
she possessed ibuprofen. She argued in court that her 4th amendment rights were
violated. The court decided that the search was unreasonable.
E: These court cases would never have happened if probable cause was used in all
schools. The definition of a “reasonable search” is a topic that is often argued about in
courts and school systems. What is considered to be a reasonable search? Everyone
thinks differently, therefore no one will agree on the same decision. With probable
cause, procedures and requirements are set for conducting student searches, and the
controversy on reasonable and unreasonable searches will diminish.

Sub point B: The report filed by an officer or school system after a student search may
be released to the media without consent.
E: Depending on the means that the media uses to access school police files on a
student, they can be released to the media. A child’s file can also be released to other
third parties without the student’s or his or her parent’s consent. Although the name of
the student is not included in the media report because of the 1st amendment, which
includes privacy from the press, they can still describe the situation in detail. Based on
the media broadcasts, other students can easily put two and two together to conclude
who it is about. Once the students come to this conclusion they will most likely tell the
media their name which is an outside source, and is therefore legal (U.S Department of
Education)
E: The access the media can have to school files can have an immense pull on the
privacy of a student's life. Reasonable suspicion leads to rumors among the public. This
partial truth that the media has received due to reasonable suspicion can cause them to
write an exaggerated report. If the school uses probable cause then the student’s
privacy will be protected.

Main Argument 2: Assuming a student’s identity shouldn’t be a factor or cause in school


searches.
Sub Point A: Minorities are viewed by fellow students as people who lean to doing bad
habits. These students might report someone to a school officer just because of his or
her race, ethnicity, or background.
E: Jason P. Nance from the University of Colorado created a law review that states “The
fact that minority students are more often subject to intrusive searches without apparent
justification raises serious concerns that schools are perpetuating racial inequalities.”
E: Schools are perceived as a safe place for children. If schools are seen meddling in
racism affairs, won’t questions be raised by the public, more specifically the students
and their parents? Additionally, this raises racial concerns in America as a whole.
Establishing the probable cause standard in all US public schools will be the first step in
eliminating these concerns.

Sub Point B: Due to the assumptions made by the school, there are many unjust
consequences for students.
E: According to a Washington University Law Review, “The number of students
suspended or expelled in schools nationwide is one in nine. Many of these suspensions
and expulsions resulted from only trivial infractions of school rules or offenses which
were all based on reasonable suspicion. There is also substantial evidence that the
majority of school-based referrals were for relatively minor offenses. These
unnecessary suspensions have been known to cause collateral damage in school
systems and cause future high rates of criminology.. It also negatively affects a youth’s
mental health by reinforcing violent attitudes and behavior, and increases the odds of
future involvement in the justice system.”
E: Reasonable suspicion causes more consequences, most of them being
unnecessary. A student could easily be blamed for possessing something illegal that
isn’t even theirs. Probable cause increases the accuracy of a situation’s evaluation.
Even though more evidence is required before deciding on the next action to be taken, it
guarantees fair and just consequences for all students.

Main Argument 3: The Bill of Rights


Sub Point A: The first amendment guarantees freedom of religion.
E: In this amendment, it says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
E: Taking off religious articles of clothing without probable cause goes against this
amendment. Being strip searched also goes against many religions.
Sub Point B: The fourth amendment protects citizens from searches.
E: It states “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no
warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and
particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be
seized.”
E: US citizens are protected from search and seizure. Students in US schools are
protected under US laws. Therefore, the fourth amendment should be applied to
students in public schools. Additionally, most K-12 students don’t decide if they will
attend a public school or not; their parents usually make this decision. Because of this,
they do not have the choice to exercise their 4th amendment rights. These students are
being forced into an unprotected environment.

The bill of rights was written by James Madison. Would you want to argue with our
fourth United States president?

Closing Statement: Therefore, my partner and I support the resolution that states in US
public K-12 schools, the probable cause standard ought to apply to searches of
students.

Rebuttals:
 One estimate suggests that between 50 and 75 percent of adolescents who have
spent time in juvenile detention centers are imprisoned later in life (child trends)
 Student’s learn much more in school than just what they’re taught in class. If
students are subjected to searches, then they establish that this is ok. This
creates a generation of people that will slowly turn into a police state. (a debate
academy)
 Some students can’t afford private school
 If they ask how you can decline student of their education by threatening their
safety then we can come back with how they can be safe in an unwelcoming
environment where people are accused left and right of untruthful things.
 Reasonable suspicion leads to more searches which wastes time
 Violent crime overall has declined since the early and mid-1990s. However, this
decline is relatively small. For example, the percentage of students who reported
being victims of crime at school decreased from 10 percent in 1995 to 8 percent
in 1999. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of
Justice.
 School violence in the U.S. reached a peak in 1993, according to the National
Center for Education Statistics. That year, there were 42 homicides by students
in total, as well as 13 "serious violent crimes" — rape, sexual assault, robbery
and aggravated assault — per 1,000 students at primary and secondary schools.
By 2010, the latest figures available, those numbers had decreased to two
homicides and four violent crimes per 1,000 students.
 It may come as no surprise that the 24-hour news cycle gets much of the blame
for perpetuating a false notion about the extent of school violence. (NPR)
 Original Constitution for the United States of America, by stating that the federal
government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the United States
Constitution. All remaining powers are reserved for the states or the people.
 Probable cause would be decreasing the number of searches and uses
anonymous tips. (national speech and debate association)

Questions:
 Probable cause is used outside of schools in real life court cases so why is
reasonable suspicion accepted in k-12 schools?
 Comeback: So is adult’s privacy more important than the privacy of students?