Can a school counselor search an 11 year old’s backpack and person without contacting the parent?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can a school counselor search an 11 year old’s backpack and person without contacting the parent?

My 6 year old told the bus driver that my 11 year old hid bullets in their clubhouse that mom had already found them and took them over a month ago. The bus driver told the school where 11

year old attends and the counselor searched his personal belongings with police present without calling me. I found this out after boys got home from school. I understand with all of the hype the media makes about shootings this could be a concern however, I think the school counselor was out of line doing the checking when the police were involved, without my knowledge, then the responding officers should have been the ones conducting the search.

Asked on April 18, 2018 under Criminal Law, Arkansas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, the school counselor may seach your child's backpack at school. The school--and hence its staff or employee, like the guidance counselor--are "in loco parentis": that means, that the law makes them effectively the parents' "stand in" while the children are in school, with much of the power that parents would have over their children (during school hours and on/at the school's location). This is necessary to allow the school to exercise authority or discipline over students. This power extends to the ability to authorize searches of the student's property or belongings on the school grounds, so the school, through the guidance counselor, could authorize or allow the search, the same way that you could have.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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