Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Strip search?

I am usually all for giving schools more power when it comes to discipline, but I'm not so sure about schools being able to conduct strip searches. The Supreme Court heard arguments dealing with this case yesterday.

Savana Redding was 13 in 2003 when Safford, Ariz., Middle School officials, on a tip from another student, ordered her to remove her clothes and shake out her underwear looking for pills. The district bans prescription and over-the-counter drugs...

Vice Principal Kerry Wilson took Redding to his office to search her backpack. When nothing was found, Redding was taken to a nurse's office where she says she was ordered to take off her shirt and pants. Redding said they then told her to move her bra to the side and to stretch her underwear waistband, exposing her breasts and pelvic area. No pills were found.

What makes this so bad is that they were looking for Ibuprofen--not exactly a dangerous narcotic--and the tip turned out to be false.

The girl said that it was the most humiliating experience of her life, and I believe her. Let's face it--there aren't a lot of 13-year-olds who feel great about their bodies. One can only imagine how an innocent girl felt being forced to go through that.

Obviously, there are serious issues here. What if the girl had actually had the drugs? Would that make the search okay? What if the drugs in question were more serious ones? What if she had been accused of having some sort of weapon?

I don't know.


Anonymous Ian H. said...

Yeah, tough call. You don't want to remove the right for schools to search students for illicit substances, but what do you do in a case like this? Reading articles on it, it looked like they had credible evidence of prescription-strength pain meds, they didn't have any male staff present during the strip search, and they had escalated the situation properly. Just them not finding anything makes the case noteworthy. I don't know what else they could have done if they actually believed she had drugs on her.

I'm not sure you want the courts setting out rules for reasonable search and seizure in a school setting.

The other upsetting thing about the case is they want to sue the vice-principal who ordered the search even though he had no reason to believe that it would be an illegal search. If teachers/admins can be judged culpable after the fact for something for which there was no rule in the first place, that will have a chilling effect on the willingness of teachers and administrators to involve themselves in disciplinary actions.

4/22/2009 3:49 PM  
Blogger Amerloc said...

As you've both noted, there are legitimate moral arguments on both sides of this issue.

I'd argue (and I'm not a Constitutional scholar, not even on the amateur scale), that a search like that should require either a warrant or an arrest. If the police can't even look in my glove box without a warrant unless they perceive an immediate threat, what gives a school employee the right to look in a kid's underwear?

I think, Ian, that we actually need some guidance from the courts if we want to keep vice-principals from being sued. Teachers and administrators operate in enough gray areas as it is - we would be better off if this one were clarified.

4/22/2009 7:42 PM  
Blogger Amerloc said...

And yeah. I'd rather talk hockey :)

4/22/2009 7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty disgusting situation.

Best follow-up question: what would have happened if the same "tip" had identified a teacher, principal, or other staff member? I think the answer makes it pretty clear how much respect the school has for students.

4/23/2009 7:30 AM  
Blogger Jake Dillon said...

I know. This is such bad decision making by the school district and now with the light of day to scrutinize it....

They look ridiculous, callous and lecherous.

Sick situation.

4/23/2009 9:01 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Ian, I agree with you about your concern for the vice-principal. I assume he was acting in good faith. I don't think I could get myself to order someone strip search, but if I did, I'd want to be nearly positive that they were going to find what they were looking for.

Amerloc, I'd rather be talking hockey, too, but the Blues and Oshie went down in four to the Canucks. Once again, there's no joy in Mudville.

4/23/2009 5:58 PM  
Blogger Levisque67 said...

What I'd like to know is how are the rights of a legally acknowledged citizen extend to a minor? The rights we have in our country, do they automatically extend to our children? It seems we have these beliefs (and rightly so) that we all have rights in this country, but just who exactly has those rights? I don't have answers. Just questions.

4/23/2009 7:11 PM  
Blogger Michael Shirley said...

Not one of the scum who searched that girl should ever be allowed near children again, including their own. They are perverts.

4/25/2009 7:15 AM  
Blogger Levisque67 said...

Michael, I've only listened to an interview with the girl (now that she's an adult), but no one laid a hand on her. She was told to disrobe and shake out her underclothes. Calling the women who observed the girl perverts suggests they had ill intentions, or that they were doing it for something like sexual gratification. Is that what you're accusing them of?

Because if you are, I'll say it up front that I think you're way off the mark.

4/25/2009 12:04 PM  
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