The Problem:A Virginia legislator wants to address the serious problem of truancy in Hilltown's public schools. The truancy rate at two HPS high schools increased nearly 20% from 2013-14 to November of the 2014-15 school year. Truancy rate means percentage of students with 10 or more unexcused absences. In two HPS high schools, the number of chronically-absent students (those with 18 or more total absences) increased from 23 to 123 and from 40 to 140. At another high school, the number of chronically-absent students tripled. On-time graduation rates at 4 of Hilltown's 8 high schools is 80% or lower. 660 students in HPS primary and secondary schools are homeless. In 2012, nearly 500 HPS students were pregnant; 19 were younger than 15 years old; 121 were 15-17 years old; and 357 were 18-19 years old. The solution: The legislator introduces a law that will monitor the whereabouts of every HPS High School student. The law:State Law requires public schools systems to attach GPS monitoring bracelets to the wrists of all students in certain, identified troubled schools. The bracelet cannot be removed by the student and monitors their whereabouts 24 hours a day, not just during school hours. The data is collected, analyzed and archived and is subject to use at subsequent truancy proceedings.
Debating pros and cons of the proposed law -- Truancy rates versus privacy interests Pro -- The school system and law enforcement supports the law because studies have shown the law will dramatically reduce truancy and will increase graduation rates. Cons -- Students' rights advocates and parents' groups oppose the law as it unlawfully infringes on the privacy of children. Also, where will the money come from to pay to enforce this law. How much will it cost? Law undermines trust between students and school officials Possibility that GPS data could be abused, either by school officials, law enforcement, or by an outside source, e.g., hackers Enforcing the GPS monitoring law The Hilltown Police Department has made a practice of asking HPS for its monitoring data whenever a crime has taken place. HPS, feeling it has no choice, has turned over to police detailed GPS information about any students in the vicinity at the time a crime is committed. A HPS high school student is charged with robbery based only on the GPS information supplied by his school. He claims is he innocent. He says he lost his bracelet and was nowhere near the scene of the crime at the time it was committed. Based on the GPS information, the police go to the student's house with a search warrant. They told the magistrate they had probable cause to search this house because data from the student's monitoring bracelet maintained by HPS shows he was at the location at the time of the robbery. At the house, the police find an illegal gun and three Ritalin tablets in the boy's bedroom. The student is arrested and indicted on the original robbery charge and on possession of illegal handgun and possession of narcotics. Each charge is a felony. Interpreting the GPS monitoring law Is the law authorizing HPS students to be monitored 24 hours per day an unreasonable search (knowing his location at all times) and seizure (limiting his movements)? If so, is it unconstitutional? Under the Fourth Amendment? Under other constitutional protections? What is a "search"? For the purposes of the Fourth Amendment, a search occurs when the government, for purposes of gaining information, physically intrudes upon a place or thing in which an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Terry v. Ohio; United States v. Jones. When is a warrantless search reasonable? When it is supported by probable cause -- when the circumstances would lead a reasonable person to believe a crime is being committed. Applying the Fourth Amendment to our Case: The Supreme Court of Virginia likely would conclude the search here was unconstitutional. First, a search occurred. The government's attachment of a GPS wrist bracelet was a physical intrusion on the student's "person" for the purpose of gaining information. See United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012). The attachment of a GPS monitoring device to a vehicle was a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.
See Grady v. North Carolina 575 U.S. __ (March 30, 2015)(per curiam). Subjecting recidivist sex offender to satellite-based monitoring by forcing him to wear tracking devices at all times constituted a search. Because the 4th Amendment prohibits only unreasonable searches, the lower court was ordered to determine whether the state's monitoring program is reasonable. Second, the search was unreasonable. The law requiring all students to wear GPS bracelets is unconstitutional on its face because it requires a search of all students without probable cause to believe that each student committed a crime. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that "the Government's installation of a GPS device on a target's vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle's movements, constitutes a 'search" and that such a search is not lawful unless the police have probable cause to search that vehicle. United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012). The Court stated "It is beyond dispute that a vehicle is an 'effect' as that term is used in the Amendment." The student argues that, under the Jones decision, a device to monitor the movements of a person, as opposed to a vehicle, constitutes a search and without probable cause, such a search is unlawful. "I would not assume that all information voluntarily disclosed to some member of the public for a limited purpose is, for that reason alone, disentitled to Fourth Amendment protection." (Justice Sotomayor, concurring). United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012).