This is an old story, I know, but it’s resurfacing because the case is now going to the United States Supreme Court. Can the school really strip-search your 13-year old daughter, looking for Ibuprofen?
The United States Court of Appeals has already ruled, correctly, that the school was in the wrong. The majority opinion in the case (it wasn’t unanimous???) included some rather obvious points:
“It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights.” “More than that,” Judge Wardlaw added, “it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity.”
The minority opinion is baffling:
“I do not think it was unreasonable for school officials, acting in good faith, to conduct the search in an effort to obviate a potential threat to the health and safety of their students.”
They weren’t looking for guns, or bombs. They didn’t have a shred of credible evidence. I just don’t understand how any judge could draw that conclusion.
Unfortunately, somebody has decided to waste more tax dollars fighting the inevitable, and the case has been appealed. I’m not aware of what earlier court rulings have been, but I find it difficult to believe any judge would ever side with the school on this.
“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?”
Professor Arum and I obviously have different definitions of “reasonable people”.
Zero tolerance is zero intelligence. That’s really what this boils down to. Somebody told the assistant principal that this girl had (*gasp!*) prescription-strength Ibuprofen on her. And on the basis of this testimony (of a girl who was caught with the same drug, and was obviously trying to shift blame and/or take somebody down with her), a strip search was ordered. On a 13 year old girl. To look for Ibuprofen.
Oh, and one last juicy quote on the subject of the student’s spotless disciplinary record:
The school district does not contest that Ms. Redding had no disciplinary record, but says that is irrelevant. “Her assertion should not be misread to infer that she never broke school rules,” the district said of Ms. Redding in a brief, “only that she was never caught.”
There you have it. Students are guilty until proven innocent. If you’ve never been disciplined before, it’s not because you’re a good kid, it’s because they never caught you being bad. Gotta love it.
I might also point out that if the strip search wasn’t government (school) sanctioned, the person conducting it would likely be on trial for sexual assault of a minor. Does the fact that the school scarred her for life make it magically OK?