University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change


Julia Eger

Publication Date

Spring 2024

Document Type


First Page



The presence of School Resource Officers (SROs) in today’s schools puts students at risk of being arrested for a variety of non-dangerous behaviors that schools would otherwise address through the school discipline process. This issue disproportionately affects students of color, and their interactions with SROs detract from their education and harm their futures. Current doctrine makes it extremely difficult for students to challenge school-based arrests and their disparate racial impact. Many experts call for schools to eliminate SRO programs, but this is unlikely to happen in the near future. Therefore, solutions that mitigate the negative effects of these programs are essential. Unanswered questions in Fourth Amendment doctrine provide opportunities to strengthen protections for students––courts currently lack consensus on what standard applies to searches conducted by SROs and how to determine whether a student has validly consented to a search by an SRO. This Article proposes answers to these questions that would reduce the incidence of school-based arrests and help students who are unjustly arrested to prevail in court. It will first explore the negative impacts of SRO programs and the ways in which the law fails to vindicate students’ rights. Then, it will propose two additions to Fourth Amendment doctrine: i) applying a probable cause standard to searches of students by SROs and ii) applying a presumption that a student did not validly consent to a search by an SRO.