Literature Study GuidesNew Jersey V TLO

New Jersey v. T.L.O. | Study Guide

U.S. Supreme Court

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Course Hero. "New Jersey v. T.L.O. Study Guide." Course Hero. 24 Jan. 2020. Web. 8 May 2021. <>.

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U.S. Supreme Court

Year Decided



Primary Source


Law, U.S. Supreme Court Case

At a Glance

  • On January 15, 1985, in a 6–3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that public school officials could legally search the personal possessions of students without obtaining a warrant if they had "reasonable grounds" for the search.
  • The case involved a female student, identified only by the initials T.L.O.
  • A teacher found the student smoking a cigarette in the school bathroom. The assistant vice principal then searched the student's purse and found cigarettes and marijuana.
  • The student appealed her conviction for possession of marijuana on the grounds that the search violated her 4th Amendment rights.
  • The 4th Amendment protects individuals against unreasonable, unwarranted searches and seizures. Earlier court decisions had determined that police conducting warrantless searches needed to have probable cause for the search to be constitutional.
  • The decision, written by Justice Byron R. White (1917–2002), resulted in a complex alignment of justices. Some concurred only in part, and Justice John Paul Stevens (1920–2019) wrote a sharp dissent.
  • Critics joined with Stevens in seeing the decision as a serious infringement on students' 4th Amendment rights.
  • Later decisions extended the court's ruling to allow for random drug testing of students involved in school athletics or other extracurricular activities.


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