PALESTINE, IL — A high school was put into complete lockdown when someone found a single .22 caliber round in the gymnasium.
Not a gun. Just a single bullet.
The incident happened Wednesday, January 15th at around 11:00 a.m. Someone found the tiny bullet and — instead of discarding it — took things to the absolute extreme. Superintendent Joe Sornberger placed the school into lockdown and called for police to search the entire school.
Students were confined to their classrooms for two and a half hours, as police searched the school and all of their personal property. The bullet was used as probable cause to warrantlessly search students’ lockers and their personal vehicles that were parked on school property, according to WTHI TV. Anything inside lockers or vehicles was evidently fair game for a search: purses, backpacks, coat pockets, and whatever else the police felt like snooping through.
The Palestine Police Department and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office participated in the lockdown and warrantless search.
Nothing was reported found. After an extensive search, the lockdown was lifted at 1:30 p.m.
A lockdown over something so silly was completely overboard. A .22 LR bullet is designed for hunting varmints — squirrels and rabbits. By itself, it is completely harmless and inert, which is true of any bullet.
It would require two more things in order to be fired: (1) a functional .22 caliber rifle and (2) a person with the will to use the items together. No one had any evidence that either of these other two things existed.
The bullet by itself was not evidence of any danger or any crime. No threats had been made. No one was in any danger. The bullet very well may have been dropped out of someone’s jacket pocket who had recently been target shooting or hunting. (That’s still legal in most parts of America.)
The reaction was a mass violation of students’ rights; enumerated in the 4th amendment. All people are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, and disregarding hundreds of students’ rights because of a bullet was not reasonable by any stretch of the imagination.
Illinois schools have a penchant for prison-style overreactions to harmless objects. The Daily Herald cited several other instances of mass-suspension of students rights over a bullet.
A generation ago, high school students in many places were allowed to participate in rifle clubs. They learned about firearm safety and responsibility in a supervised setting — instead of paranoia, ignorance, and fear of guns. Some schools even had shooting ranges on site. Now a SWAT team comes over the mention of the word. America has fallen a long way in fifty years.
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Tell local police departments to respect students’ rights and stop with the warrantless mass-searches.
Palestine Police Department
Phone: (618) 586-2464