Here's a scenario I've always been curious about.

Suppose that a 15-year-old high school student in Oregon, USA, is called into the counselor's office because he was reported for having scars on his forearms. The counselor (who the student has no choice in going to see) requests/demands to see the student's arms.

Can the student legally refrain from showing his forearms to the counselor?

  • 1
    I've edited the question so that it isn't a request for legal advice, which is off-topic.
    – user6726
    Nov 28, 2017 at 21:44
  • There was a lot of extra baggage that was at best meta commentary which doesn't help clarify the question. This is Law SE: discussion of details outside legal relevance is off-topic by definition, and linking to meta should be done in comments for inclusion in the Linked list.
    – user4657
    Nov 29, 2017 at 3:39
  • @Nij Oh, alright, thank you; On my main site that bottom baggage/explanation is typical. I'll keep that in mind in the future here.
    – MD XF
    Nov 29, 2017 at 4:03
  • 1
    I would guess no. Would have to show arms. Right of privacy is diminished in school.
    – A.fm.
    Nov 29, 2017 at 13:33

1 Answer 1


A school official might have the legal right to search you (without a warrant), if, following New Jersey v. T.L.O, they have a reasonable suspicion that the student has done something wrong (not necessarily a crime). However, students do have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The court ruled that schools do not have the same complete right to invade their child's privacy (likewise, schools do not have the same right to suppress speech of children). If the counselor has a reasonable suspicious of wrong-doing, a warrantless search would be legal.

It does not follow, though, that a student may resist such an order without consequences. The courts, and not the student, will determine whether the suspicion is reasonable. There does not appear to be case law establishing one way or the other whether the official must even articulate a reason for the search (students relent and sue later). A student can "legally" refuse the search (the official cannot batter the student to perform the search); but there probably is a rule that if you refuse a search request, you will be suspended (such a suspension was upheld in DesRoches v. Caprio). Picking Portland as a random district in Oregon, they do state that "The school may search a student if the school has a reasonable suspicion that a prohibited or dangerous item will be found". They also articulate disciplinary procedures for student violating the rules, and on p. 12 include a broad form of prohibited misbehavior, "refusing to follow directions". They are supposed to engage in lower-level discipline ("conferences", with school officials, which parents may attend) before imposing stiff penalties such as expulsion.

Suppose a student had been in an accident years before and had disfiguring scars on his forearm. An official could not search the students arms to satisfy voyeuristic curiosity: there is no reasonable suspicious of wrongdoing. Suppose on the other hand the student had needle tracks on his arms from drug injections: a rumor to that effect would create a reasonable suspicion that the student was abusing drugs. You can sue to find out if their suspicion was reasonable.

  • So (if I understand correctly) it mostly depends on how much reasonable evidence for conducting the search they have. Is that the point here?
    – MD XF
    Nov 30, 2017 at 0:21
  • Basically yes. You can refuse the search, at a potential price, and you escape that price only if there is no reasonable suspicion.
    – user6726
    Nov 30, 2017 at 1:15
  • All your examples are about searching for prohibited items. In this case the school is looking for evidence on the person's body itself. Would that not arguable be a different thing that the school has not explicitly stated they claim rights to and as such the child would have the right to refuse?
    – dsollen
    Aug 1, 2023 at 21:50

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