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How private is a student's locker?

Heading back to school brings a few familiar rituals, which can include shopping for school clothes, school supplies and getting a new school locker and combination.

But unlike clothing and school supplies, lockers are not personal property. Therefore, once students get that new locker, they should not assume that everything they put in that locker will remain private.

School property is not protected

Lockers do not belong to students, and are provided by the school. That means they can be subject to search, unlike "protected student areas," which include a student's body, backpack or any other container for personal effects that a student keeps close to their body.

When can lockers be searched?

School districts must let students and parents/guardians know at the beginning of the school year that they may perform periodic searches of either all lockers or randomly selected lockers. These searches must take place in the presence of one other person, which could be the student him or herself but need not be.

Can specific student lockers be targeted?

School officials may only search a specific student's locker when both of the following apply:

  • The official has reason to believe that a locker search will uncover evidence that the student has broken the law or a school policy
  • The official conducts a search in a manner appropriate to the age and gender of the student, as well as the nature of infraction

Do not assume privacy

The bottom line is that a locker is not personal property of a student, even though it may contain that student's personal property. School districts in Iowa reserve the right to search lockers -- although usually randomly or uniformly -- as they see fit. Students who store anything that may be illegal for them to possess, could easily find themselves in trouble with the law, and looking for legal representation.

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