Constitutional Rights and Student Searches

"The Lessons of School Violence" (Aug. 22) reported that even though a San Diego County task force agreed that "there is no way to predict or 'profile' a school shooter," it recommended that additional police be stationed on campuses. In reality, students should fear the overreaction by the task force more than the possibility of another school shooter. In its Sept. 6, 2000, report, the FBI concluded that "the actual threat level" of a school shooting is very low and that "news coverage magnifies a number of widespread but wrong or unverified impressions [such as the belief that] . . . school violence is an epidemic." Unlike the public's perception, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, juvenile arrests have declined every year since 1995.

Our search for absolute safety on campus has continued to eviscerate children's 4th and 5th Amendment rights. What will happen when they become adults? How important will they view basic civil rights as being, having been reared in an environment where they can be stopped, questioned and searched by police on a mere hunch? Will our basic constitutional protections simply wither when this generation of students begins to vote?

William Wesley Patton

Professor, Whittier Law School

Costa Mesa

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