Dr. Wallace: I have been suspended from school for the rest of the semester because my locker was searched illegally by the principal and school nurse because someone told the principal that I had a gun stashed in my locker.

What they found was just a starter’s pistol that fires blanks only, not bullets, and it’s used to start races. I brought it to school just to show off, not to do any harm. My uncle is an attorney, and he told me that the police cannot search a locker without a search warrant, but the school principal can. How can this be?

Nameless, Houston

Nameless: A school operates “in loco parentis” (in place of parents), which means school authorities can do what a reasonable parent might do in times of stress or possible danger. Since a school is responsible for the safety and welfare of all of its students, school authorities can search a student’s locker without permission if they suspect something harmful is in the locker.

You deserve your punishment. You made a very unwise decision to bring the starter’s piston to school. It could have caused a major disturbance on campus. You are fortunate your punishment was a suspension, not a year’s expulsion.

Write to Dr. Wallace
at rwallace@galesburg.net