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What happens if a CMS student refuses a backpack check?

WCNC Charlotte checked CMS district policy and asked an attorney about the legal workings of backpack searches.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With more and more security going into schools, some parents and students are wondering what rights they have if they don't want their backpacks checked. 

At Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), all 21 high schools and some middle schools have these body scanners in place. They are there to ensure safety in schools and check for weapons. Backpack checks can also happen as students go through the scanner, and some are wondering if students can refuse to have their backpacks searched. 


In an email, CMS told WCNC Charlotte that everyone must comply with searches. They go on to say a backpack check refusal is the same as refusing an administrative search and results in suspension. If it is a medical issue, administrators are encouraged to find another avenue of searching, like wanding. 

"The student has the 4th Amendment, but those rights are not the same as the same rights an adult would have, or someone else would have outside of the school setting," Mauney said.

Mauney said when it comes to school settings, administrators have more leeway when it comes to random searchers. 

"The Supreme Court of the United States said, in a series of cases, that the school has a right to conduct reasonably measured searches of students if there is a reason to do so," Mauney said. 

Mauney tells WCNC Charlotte because these security measures are in place at school, and if a student refuses, this can give administrators a reason to search. 

"I think most people would say 'why is a student is trying not to get searched they could be reasonable grounds,'" Mauney said. 

So students can refuse but will face the consequences if the school believes there is a reason for the search. 

Contact Meghan Bragg at mbragg@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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