TV Club

Week 7: Did the Cops Have the Right To Search Vince’s Locker?

Hanna, watch out, you’re bringing out my inner legal nerd. You asked whether the cops had the right to search Vince’s locker. The answer is that we don’t have quite enough details to know for sure, but, yes, in all likelihood they did. The foundational Supreme Court case, New Jersey v. T.L.O., is from 1985. The court held that school officials don’t need a warrant for a search as long as there are “reasonable grounds” for suspecting the search will yield evidence of a violation of the law or even just a school rule. The court didn’t address what the cops can do in schools. According to this helpful overview from the American Bar Association, most but not all of the lower courts that have addressed that question have applied a higher probable cause test to the police, instead of the lower T.L.O. standard of reasonable suspicion used for school staff. (If the phrase “reasonable suspicion” sounds familiar, that might be because it’s also the lower standard in the new Arizona immigration law.)

So, the question becomes: Did the cops have probable cause to search Vince’s locker? The principal walks in and tells Eric there’s a “report” that Vince brought a gun to school. Eric asks the right question: Who reported? If the cops had a credible report from a student or anyone else at school, that’s probably good enough. About weapons in school, courts are inclined to give the searchers the benefit of the doubt. I guess Eric could have protested, Meghan, but the cops are the cops, they came in with the principal, and it wouldn’t have worked anyway. In the moment, I also felt like he should have spoken to Vince. But to say what, exactly? Hey, sorry, but this isn’t my call. What if the gun had been there—then what would there have been to be sorry about?

I was also entirely with you, Meghan, cheering on Tami and Eric for not turning in the gun. Phew. I mean, how could Eric have done that after inviting Vince to lean on him? At the same time, it’s a sharply drawn illustration of the cost of such an offer—the dilemmas that a coach or a teacher can expose himself to. We were meant to experience it that way, as Eric standing on the edge of a world of criminality, looking in. You’re both right that Regina’s suddenly clear skin and eyes made committing to this kid easier for Eric than it should have been. (It was an oddly off moment, as if the writers were trying too hard to confound the crack mom stereotype.) But I read that overplayed moment in Riggins’ Rigs between Billy and Vince’s thug friend as a reminder that Dillon’s underworld is close by. As I imagined Eric hefting the weight of the gun in that bag, and actually disposing of it, I could also imagine the moral ground shifting beneath his feet a bit.

I have a different interpretation of Matt Saracen than yours, Hanna. I don’t think Matt is ditching Julie for his art. I don’t think he’s ditching her at all. I think he’s proving to himself he can stand up in the world, and stay standing, without her. And he has to do that, so she can go off to college and he can bear it, even if they end up back together. Julie tells Tami that she thought Matt was the one. Who knows, maybe he will be. But only if he learns to stand up outside the shade of her family tree. Do you know couples who met when they were very young? The lesson of my own sample is that it’s hard to make it when you’ve marked each other with all the cruelties of your own growing up. Easier to practice on other people and then leave the wounds behind. Matt and Julie have the challenge of youth plus the imbalance of strength between their families. So if they’re going to make it, Matt has to man up. By which I really mean grow up. When he’s got his first roots into the Julie-less ground, then he can call her. In the meantime, she should be glad that he’s calling home, though yes, of course, that hurts, too.

Meghan, you asked whether Tim and Becky will get together—no, please, no! I want his intensity about her and her dad to be about his older brother role. (Beck, he called her—I liked that.) Plus about how he’s a fellow traveler in the land of the children of deadbeat dads. It’s too easy, and also icky, for them to hook up. I have a different question: Was Tim right to tell Becky about her father’s second family in Seattle? Did he tell her for her sake, or because he just really despised that dude? He was trying to save her from some of the pain his parents caused him, I think. But that never really works.