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MARTENS v. DISTRICT NO. 220

September 19, 1985

MICHAEL MARTENS, BY AND THROUGH HIS FATHER AND NEXT FRIEND, PHILIP MARTENS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT NO. 220, BOARD OF EDUCATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Moran, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This case stems from the warrantless search of the student plaintiff on school property. It raises several interesting questions under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which reads:

    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.

I.

At about 10:30 a.m. on April 29, 1982, Joan Baukus, dean of students at Reavis High School, received an anonymous phone call. The caller identified herself as living in the Sahs area of Stickney, Illinois. The caller said that she had discovered her daughter with marijuana cigarettes purchased from James Lafollette, a student at Reavis. The caller said Lafollette kept marijuana in a Marlboro box in his school locker, and that the box was in the locker that day. Baukus tried unsuccessfully to persuade the caller to reveal her name or leave a phone number. Baukus then had Lafollette open his locker. There, as promised, was a Marlboro box containing marijuana cigarettes.

At about 12:30 p.m. the same day, Baukus received another phone call from a woman Baukus believed to have been the earlier anonymous tipster, although she was not sure. This second caller identified herself as living in the Sahs area. She said she had discovered her daughter in possession of marijuana cigarettes. The caller indicated that her daughter had purchased the marijuana from James Lafollette and the plaintiff, Michael Martens. The caller said Martens kept drug paraphernalia in the lining of his coat and that he might have paraphernalia in his possession that day. Baukus was again unsuccessful in persuading the caller to reveal her name or phone number.

At about 1:15 p.m. Baukus brought Martens to her office and confronted him with the substance of the phone call. Martens denied he had a controlled substance in his possession and refused to consent to a search until his parents were contacted. Baukus was unable to reach either of Martens' parents over the next 45 minutes.

At this point Officer Hentig, a Cook County Sheriff's deputy, came into Baukus' office and spoke to Martin. Hentig was at the school on another matter. There is no indication that he supplied any evidence implicating Martens or directed school officials to detain Martens for questioning. He told Martens that based on his experience it would be better to cooperate with school officials. Hentig then asked Martens to empty his pockets and Martens complied. A pipe in Martens possession was later found to have contained marijuana residue.

Martens was suspended from school on May 10, 1982, pending a hearing before the Board of Education on May 18, 1982. At that hearing Martens was represented by counsel, presented witnesses and cross examined adverse witnesses. The transcript of the hearing covers 23 single-spaced pages. At the conclusion of the hearing the Board decided to expel Martens for the remainder of the school year. This order was not entered on Martens' permanent record and was not revealed to colleges or prospective employers. Martens faced no criminal charges as a result of the search. At the time of the expulsion Martens was at the end of his junior year. Martens claims, tardily, that the expulsion kept him from graduating a semester early, as he had planned.

Martens' complaint for a temporary restraining order has long since become an action for damages. Martens claims, first, that the search violated his Fourth Amendment rights and, second, that the illegally seized evidence was improperly admitted at the expulsion hearing before the school board. This court delayed ruling on defendant's motion for summary judgment until after the Supreme Court handed down its decision in New Jersey v. T.L.O., ___ U.S. ___, 105 S.Ct. 733, 83 L.Ed.2d 720 (1985).

II.

Young people are not stripped of their constitutional rights upon entering the schoolhouse. The Supreme Court has recognized that students are protected by the proscriptions of the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. See Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503, 89 S.Ct. 733, 21 L.Ed.2d 731 (1969) (First Amendment), Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 97 S.Ct. 1401, 51 L.Ed.2d 711 (1977) (Eighth Amendment), Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565, 95 S.Ct. 729, 42 L.Ed.2d 725 (1975) (Fourteenth Amendment). In T.L.O. the Supreme Court rejected the argument that school administrators act in loco parentis and are not subject to the dictates of the Fourth Amendment. The Court held that the Fourth Amendment does apply to searches by school officials. 105 S.Ct. at 740-41.

While honoring the notion that students have Fourth Amendment rights, the T.L.O. Court limited those rights in order to accommodate the school's need to preserve order and a proper educational environment. First, the Court held that school officials need not obtain a warrant before searching a student. 105 S.Ct. at 743. According to the Court, the warrant requirement is unsuited to the school environment because it "would unduly interfere with the maintenance of the swift and informal disciplinary procedures needed in the schools." Id.

As a second concession to school officialdom, the T.L.O. Court rejected "probable cause" as the touchstone for determining the legality of school searches. It held that "the legality of a search of a student should depend simply on the reasonableness, under all the circumstances, of the search." 105 S.Ct. at 743-44. In determining the reasonableness of a search, a court must consider, first, whether the search was justified at its inception and, second, whether the scope of the search was reasonably related to the circumstances that prompted the search. Id. at 744. The difference in the quantum of information required under the probable cause and reasonableness standards is quite unclear, although the ...


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