CABA’s 2017 Essay Contest

Each year the Law Related Education Committee hosts CABA’s Essay Contest for 7th & 8th graders in the Jackson area. This year committee members started in the fall to canvas schools and contact teachers about incorporating the essay into their curriculum. Their efforts paid off! Over 170 essays were submitted by student authors from five different schools in the Jackson area.

The 2016-2017 Law Related Education Committee members include Dean Jim Rosenblatt (Chair), Christina Seanor (Chair), Cydney Archie, Mary Lib Baxter, Tamekia Goliday, Chad Russell, Katharine Surkin, Emilie Witehead and Rhonda Cooper. Authors of the top essay from each school received a cash prize of $100. The Overall Winner, selected out of all of the essays submitted, received a cash prize of $150. The teacher with the most students to submit essays in the contest won a $100 gift card for classroom supplies.

Teacher Winner

Mrs. Amy Ward, Jackson Academy

Overall Winner & Jackson Academy Winner

Meagan Gautier

Germantown Middle School Winner

Logan Nowell

Hartfield Academy Winner

Landon Lewis

Madison Middle School Winner

Jake Norris

Northwest Rankin Middle School Winner

Emily Rutland

Winning Essay

By Meagan Gautier

Should school officials have unlimited authority to inspect student lockers and student backpacks while on school grounds or do students have an absolute right of privacy in those two items/spaces?

The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects our right of privacy as to our personal belongings. While the Fourteenth Amendment clearly applies to protect my right of privacy as to my personal backpack, it is unclear if it also applies to my school locker. Even though my own books, clothing, and other things that I own are kept in my school locker, the school’s rights should be greater than my right of privacy when it comes to protecting the students. The following sets forth the basis for my position that my right of privacy is limited on school grounds.

Although a backpack and items within the backpack, such as textbooks, folders, notebooks, cell phones and money, are the personal items of the student, a school should have a good reason before searching a person’s backpack. For instance, if a teacher or school dean is suspicious that a student has a weapon or something else that could be harmful to other students in his backpack, the student should lose the right of privacy. If a student is known to have a prior history of drug use, then his or her backpack should most definitely be searched regardless of any right of privacy claimed by the student. The school’s interest in protecting its students from harmful weapons and drugs outweighs the student’s right to privacy.

School lockers are the school’s property which means we really have no right to expect any privacy when we put something inside our lockers. A school should be able to open up a student’s locker and look though it at any given time. A student’s personal things within his or her school locker, such as purses and athletic bags, could have things inside of them like knives, guns, drugs, and other harmful items. Additionally, students may leave old food in their lockers which would attract mice and bugs. So this is not only a safety concern but also a health concern for the school. The school owns the locker; so therefore, the school must have the right to search it at any time regardless of a student’s claim of privacy.

Schools should be able to look through backpacks and lockers at any given time if there is probable cause to believe that a student may possess drugs or weapons. Additionally, if a student kept old food in his or her locker, it could create a health risk. Therefore, schools should be able to access lockers and backpacks without regard to a student’s right of privacy.