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Lee Co. School District responds to potential search without warrant policy

Posted at 6:50 PM, May 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-23 21:06:06-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — The Lee County School Board addressed specific concerns about a proposalthat will let employees search students' electronic devices.

When speaking with the district, it was stressed that this policy isn't new. Under the current policy, the school has the right to search a student's locker and personal property.

After comparing the "updated" policy to the current one, we found that they added cell phones and other electronic devices to the list of items subjected to search without a warrant.

“If it compromises the safety or the operation of the building," said Lee County Superintendent Christopher Bernier, “then you have the responsibility as the administrator to make sure you do your due diligence.”

Section 4.03 is the Search and Seizure portion of the Lee County School's code of conduct, which states that a student's personal belongings are subject to search without a warrant.

"It comes from a Supreme Court case that is pretty old — from 1985. In that case, it says school districts do not have the probable cause needed, and a warrant is not needed in able to search," said Kathy Dupy-Bruno Esquire, the board's attorney.

"It's only done on cases of reasonable suspicion, we never randomly search backpacks or cell phones," Dr. Bernier said.

So exactly what is considered suspicious?

"If there is a report that the child is using his phone to do drug deals with other students then you will search the phone," said Armor Persons, District 5.

“They need my permission first before they do something concerning my kid," said RC Smith, a father with a child that attends a school in the Lee County School District.

That concern is what Fox 4's Briana Brownlee heard multiple times from parents. So she took the concern to the board.

“If your child was using their phone to text people to do something like a drug deal in the bathroom we need to know those things," Pearsons said. "Or if it's a violent act — sometimes there isn't time.”

The next step is for the proposal to be heard for public comment and then the board will vote.