Reasonable and Probable Cause
by Bernie Hoffman
More and more the terms of reasonable and probable cause are confused. When the term probable cause is used it rises to a much higher level than reasonable cause. Probable cause really applies to courts, law enforcement and agencies. They must be at the level of “without question” to achieve the level of probable cause.
Schools use the term of reasonableness. They must establish reason to do what they do and it does not rise to the level of probable cause. In case after case today, educators are asked, what was your reason to do what you did? Did your action rise to the level of reasonableness?
Searching a locker because you have a feeling that there are drugs inside does not rise to the level of reasonableness. Searching a locker after two students and a teacher saw a student place packets of brown powder in his locker is reasonable. (Remember, the search should be done by an administrator or under the direction of an administrator.)
Every educator has important documents they constantly use. Your handbook and your emergency/health card are extremely important documents. They can clearly represent your school as to what you need to know as well as what parents and students need to know. A strong comprehensive handbook should state educational philosophy and goals as well as provide information that enhances a safe and orderly environment. The content should also list information to protect the health, safety and welfare of all students and staff. A cover page is needed for these documents that states the parent or guardian and the student has received, read and understood the document. The signed cover page should then be returned. If they have questions, they should sign and return the cover page and request an appointment to get their question or questions answered. Their signature does not mean that they agree with everything in the handbook.
An emergency/health card must be returned for every child. If there is additional information that the parent feels the school needs to know, it should be placed in a confidential sealed envelope attached to the card.