Thompson v. Carthage School District

87 F.3d 979 (1996)

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Thompson v. Carthage School District

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
87 F.3d 979 (1996)

  • Written by Tammy Boggs, JD

Facts

Carthage School District (defendant) was a small, rural school district in which students of all grades went to school at the same location. About 90 to 100 students attend the high school, including ninth grader Ramone Lea (plaintiff). One October morning, the high-school principal, Norma Bartel (defendant) learned from the bus driver that there were fresh cuts on the seats of the school bus. Bartel was concerned about the presence of a knife or sharp weapon on campus and initiated a search process of all boys in grades six and up. As the search was underway, students told Bartel that a gun was also at school that morning. Science teacher Ralph Malone (defendant) assisted in the search. Students had to remove their jackets, shoes, and socks and place these belongings and anything in their pockets on large tables. Bartel and Malone used a metal detector to check for concealed weapons, and Malone did a pat-down of a student if the metal detector sounded. Lea was searched, like the other students. In Lea’s coat pocket, Malone found a cigarette package and matchbox. Malone informed Bartel of the contraband. The matchbox contained a white substance that was later revealed to be crack cocaine. After a disciplinary hearing, Lea was expelled. Lea and his guardian, Cleoria Thompson (plaintiff) sued the school district and officials (defendants), alleging that the expulsion hearing violated Lea’s constitutional right to due process. The district court found that the school officials’ search violated Lea’s Fourth Amendment rights, which precluded consideration of the contraband and made Lea’s expulsion wrongful. The court awarded Lea $10,000 in compensatory damages and declared a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The school officials appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Loken, J.)

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