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Thread: Supreme Court rules that school strip search violated 13-yr. old's rights

  1. #1
    Elite Member Cali's Avatar
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    Default Supreme Court rules that school strip search violated 13-yr. old's rights

    I don't know how many of you were following this case but the Supreme Court finally issued a ruling. The backstory on the case was posted about here:
    Teen strip search case heads to Supreme Court

    Student Strip Search Illegal
    School Violated Teen Girl's Rights, Supreme Court Rules
    By Robert Barnes
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, June 26, 2009

    Arizona school officials violated the constitutional rights of a 13-year-old girl when they strip-searched her on the suspicion she might be hiding ibuprofen in her underwear, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday. The decision put school districts on notice that such searches are "categorically distinct" from other efforts to combat illegal drugs.

    In a case that had drawn attention from educators, parents and civil libertarians across the country, the court ruled 8 to 1 that such an intrusive search without the threat of a clear danger to other students violated the Constitution's protections against unreasonable search or seizure.

    Justice David H. Souter, writing perhaps his final opinion for the court, said that in the search of Savana Redding, now a 19-year-old college student, school officials overreacted to vague accusations that Redding was violating school policy by possessing the ibuprofen, equivalent to two tablets of Advil.

    What was missing, Souter wrote, "was any indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose that Savana was carrying pills in her underwear."

    It was reasonable to search the girl's backpack and outer clothes, but Safford Middle School administrators made a "quantum leap" in taking the next step, the opinion said. "The meaning of such a search, and the degradation its subject may reasonably feel, place a search that intrusive in a category of its own demanding its own specific suspicions," Souter wrote.

    Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter. "Judges are not qualified to second-guess the best manner for maintaining quiet and order in the school environment," he wrote.

    He said administrators were only being logical in searching the girl. "Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments," he wrote. "Nor will she be the last after today's decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school."

    The court's virtual unanimity was in contrast to the intense oral argument that seemed to exasperate the court's only female member, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She later said her male colleagues seemed not to appreciate the trauma such a search would have on a developing adolescent.

    "They have never been a 13-year-old girl," she told USA Today when asked about her colleagues' comments during the arguments. "It's a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn't think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood."

    But yesterday's opinion recognized just that. "Changing for gym is getting ready for play," Souter wrote. "Exposing for a search is responding to an accusation reserved for suspected wrongdoers" and is so degrading that a number of states and school districts have banned strip searches. The Washington region's two largest school districts are among them.

    Redding said the decision "feels fantastic." She described herself as shy and "not a good public speaker," but said the long legal battle "was to make sure it didn't happen to anyone else."

    The case, Safford Unified School District #1 v. Redding, began when another student was found with prescription-strength ibuprofen and said she received it from Redding.

    Safford Middle School assistant principal Kerry Wilson pulled the quiet honors student out of class, and she consented in his office to a search of her backpack and outer clothes. When that turned up no pills, he had a school nurse take Redding to her office, where she was told to remove her clothes, shake out her bra and pull her underwear away from her body, exposing her breasts and pelvic area.

    No drugs were found, and Redding said she was so humiliated by the incident that she never returned to the school. Her mother filed suit against the school district, as well as Wilson.

    After years of legal proceedings, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit eventually ruled in her favor.

    Justices based their view on the court's warning in a 1985 case that, although school officials have leeway in deciding when searches of students are reasonable, the officials may not employ searches "excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction."

    Lower courts have had trouble deciding when that standard applies, Souter wrote, so Wilson should not be held personally liable for the incident. The court ruled, though, that Redding's suit could proceed against the school district.

    Ginsburg and Justice John Paul Stevens criticized the decision to remove Wilson from the suit, saying he should have known the search violated Redding's rights.
    "Abuse of authority of that order should not be shielded by official immunity," Ginsburg wrote.

    Redding's attorney, Adam Wolf of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the court made clear that strip searches would be used only in "extraordinary circumstances" and that "the justices saw what the general public saw: that these school officials overreacted and traumatized a young girl."

    Francisco M. Negrón Jr., general counsel for the National School Boards Association, said he was glad the court recognized that the school officials had acted "in good faith." But he said the decision did not provide clear guidelines about how specific the accusation must be, or how dangerous the alleged drugs, before school officials employ such an intrusive search.

    "I think there will be more litigation," he said.

    But many states and school boards, including some in the Washington area, are simply not allowing strip searches.

    The policy in Fairfax County, for instance, specifies that "personal searches may extend to pockets; and to the removal and search of outer garments such as jackets, coats, sweaters, or shoes; and to items such as pocketbooks or backpacks." In Montgomery County, officials with the Department of School Safety and Security said searches are limited to outer clothing and pockets. The "preferred method is self-search," where a student is told what to remove, said school system spokeswoman Kate Harrison. A third person is always present for any search, she said.

    Supreme Court Rules Strip Search Violated 13-Year-Old Girl's Rights

    So glad the case turned out this way. Also love what another blogger had to say:

    'I infer the school is worried about the budgetary impact of a loss in this suit. Let's hear from an expert:
    Richard Arum, who teaches sociology and education at New York University, said he would have handled the incident differently. But Professor Arum said the Supreme Court should proceed cautiously. “Do we really want to encourage cases,” Professor Arum asked, “where students and parents are seeking monetary damages against educators in such school-specific matters where reasonable people can disagree about what is appropriate under the circumstances?”

    Reasonable people disagree about whether this was appropriate? How many parents strip-search their own thirteen year olds, let alone other kids? For Advil? I would guess roughly none. In fact, I daresay that if a thirteen year old came to school officials and complained that her parents were strip-searching her, the school might arrange for a home visit from Child Services.'

    JustOneMinute: In Loco Parentis, Or Just Loco?

  2. #2
    Elite Member *DIVA!'s Avatar
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    I think there's a thread somewhere. I'm so glad they ruled in er favor.
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    Right decision, and once again Clarence is a twit.

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    Excellent decision and while they're at it could they stop this nonsense that you're a drug dealer if you give your friend with period cramps some Midol? That stuff pisses me off.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Elite Member MontanaMama's Avatar
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    This story makes me naseous every time I read about it. No wonder our children are so fucking stupid, the ones teaching them have absolutely no common sense.
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    (Replying to MontanaMama) This is some of the smartest shit I ever read

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