On March 2, 2015, a federal district court in Florida ruled that school officials and local law enforcement did not violate students’ Fourth Amendment search rights when sheriff’s deputies searched a bus that the students had used for transportation to the prom.  It also concluded that the school district’s breath test policy did not violate students’ Fourth Amendment search rights nor did the conducting of breathalyzer tests violate their Fourth Amendment search rights.  Additionally, the court held that the detention of the students in order to conduct the breathalyzer tests did not violate the students’ Fourth Amendment seizure rights.

The district court rejected the students’ equal protection claim that the school district’s de facto policy that all students attending prom were subject to a vehicle search and/or breath test was applied in a discriminatory manner to students arriving to the prom in limos or buses.  It also held that the school officials did not violate the First Amendment speech rights of two students suspended for using profanity while waiting to be tested.  Finally, the court concluded the students’ failure to train claim, with regard to the law enforcement officers, was unsuccessful because the students had failed to show any violation of their constitutional rights.  Zeigler v. Martin Cnty Sch. Dist. No. 14-14221 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 2, 2015)

Short Case Summary.

In conclusion, if a school district adopts a vehicle search and breath test policy and students sign an agreement to abide by the policy, vehicle searches and breath tests are permissible.

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Christina L. Lane

Christina Lane is an accomplished school, municipal, labor and employment attorney representing public sector employers. She has extensive knowledge and experience with Title IX and often serves as a third-party investigator.