From wire and staff reports
HARRISBURG — Six current or former Bucknell University students claim in a federal lawsuit that searches of a fraternity and another campus residential building in February 2012 violated constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
Mechanicsburg attorney Devon Jacob said Friday the searches were illegal and conducted under a policy the school has maintained for decades. He said a housing agreement the students signed did not permit searches of the kind at issue.
Bucknell, Jacob said, is “saying that signature waives their constitutional rights, and it doesn’t. The case law’s clear on that.”
The lawsuit said the searches by university police and personnel from Montour and Union counties’ sheriff’s departments turned up a small amount of marijuana and smoking paraphernalia. Some students were disciplined as a result.
The complaint said someone involved with the search pulled fire alarms at Kappa Sigma Alpha Pi and the other building, located on the same block. After the students exited the buildings, their personal effects were searched for about three hours with the help of two dogs.
“We are aware of the filing,” Bucknell spokesman Andy Hirsch said. “The claims made in that filing are baseless, and we’ll be disputing them in court.”
Union County Sheriff Ernest Ritter III said Friday he is aware of the lawsuit but that he could not comment on the case.
Along with the officers involved, the defendants also include top administrators and Montour and Union counties.
The lawsuit seeks damages and a declaration that the defendants’ rights under the First and Fourth amendments to the U.S. Constitution — and the state Constitution’s search protections — were violated.
The plaintiffs are identified only by their initials, and Jacob is asking for the case to be certified as a class action because the two buildings housed about 60 students at the time.