Supreme Court Rules Strip Search of 13-Year-Old Girl Unconst

Postby Wizard CaT » Thu Jun 25, 2009 4:15 pm

JESS BRAVIN wrote:WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court rapped school officials for strip-searching a 13-year-old girl in a fruitless hunt for ibuprofen, ruling that an investigation based on almost no evidence violated the Fourth Amendment ban on "unreasonable searches and seizures."
[Savana Redding] Associated Press

Savana Redding, right, and her lawyer Adam Wolf, stood outside the Supreme Court in April after the court heard her case.

The court's 8-1 vote was a surprising victory for student rights, after its 2007 ruling that a school campaign to discourage drug abuse outweighed a teenager's First Amendment right to mock such efforts.

The opinion, by Justice David Souter, who is retiring at the end of this term, exempted the assistant principal who ordered the search from liability, finding that it might not have been clear to him that his action was unconstitutional. But the justices left open the possibility that the school district, in Safford, Ariz., could be liable for the violation.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito, who all endorsed the 2007 decision limiting student free speech rights when it came to drug use, joined Justice Souter's opinion, as did Justice Stephen Breyer.

Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg would have gone further still, upholding the federal appeals court ruling that left the assistant principal exposed to liability.
Related

* Text: Safford Unified School District v. Redding
* Court Eases Oversight of Arizona English Program

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In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, as he has before, took the strongest position against student rights and in favor of school administrators' authority.

The case arose after a Safford Middle School student found with several pills in her possession accused Savana Redding of having supplied her. Assistant Principal Kerry Wilson searched Ms. Redding's backpack and, after finding nothing, had her strip-searched by two female school employees. Stripped to her underwear, Ms. Redding was forced to shake out her bra and panties so that anything hidden therein would fall out, "revealing her pelvic area" and "exposing her naked breasts in the process," according to a lower court opinion. She was detained for an additional two hours before being sent back to class.

School authorities defended their actions as part of an aggressive campaign against controlled substances. Nearly two months earlier, they raised their guard after a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of alcohol were found in the girls' bathroom. The classmate who implicated Ms. Redding had been found with prescription-strength ibuprofen -- 400 mg per pill, twice that in over-the-counter versions such as Advil.

Ms. Redding, an honor student with no disciplinary record, called the search "the most humiliating experience" of her life. Her mother sued the school district, alleging it had violated the teenager's Fourth Amendment right against "unreasonable searches and seizures."

A divided federal appeals court agreed.

"Public school officials who strip searched Ms. Redding acted contrary to all reason and common sense as they trampled over her legitimate and substantial interest in privacy and security of her person," Judge Kim Wardlaw wrote for the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Not only was the evidence cited by the assistant principal weak, but he should have realized that the "minimal nature of the alleged infraction" couldn't justify such an intrusive search, Judge Wardlaw wrote. She cited social science research about the negative effects of strip-searching children, concluding that "the overzealousness of school administrators in efforts to protect students has the tragic impact of traumatizing those they claim to serve."
From the Archives

* Class Struggle: Should Schools Permit Searching of Students For Weapons, Drugs? (May 30, 1984)
* Students May Be Searched if School Has 'Reasonable Grounds,' High Court Rules (Jan. 16, 1985)

In a 1943 Supreme Court opinion, Justice Robert Jackson wrote that public schools must respect students' constitutional rights, lest youth "discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes." But the court also has recognized, as Justice Abe Fortas wrote in 1969, that students' rights must be weighed against local officials' authority "to prescribe and control conduct in the schools."

In recent years, the court has been tilting that balance toward administrators. Two years ago, the court ruled that the schools' interest in fighting drug abuse allowed it to suppress student speech that seemed to trivialize the issue -- in that case, a banner a student unfurled outside campus reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."

The Safford case initially suggested what may have been a gender divide on whether the strip search of a pubescent girl is "unreasonable" in light of the Fourth Amendment. At the Supreme Court, several male justices seemed puzzled at Ms. Redding's humiliation over displaying her body to adult inquisitors.

"Why is this a major thing, to say, 'Strip down to your underclothes,' which children do when they change for gym?" Justice Stephen Breyer asked at the oral argument in April.

The court's only woman, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, interjected: Ms. Redding wasn't stripped to her underwear, but to shake her bra and panties out.

Justice Ginsburg's perspective apparently influenced Justice Souter's majority opinion. "The issue here is whether a 13-year-old student's Fourth Amendment right was violated when she was subjected to a search of her bra and underpants by school officials," his opinion begins.

"Because there were no reasons to suspect the drugs presented a danger or were concealed in her underwear, we hold that the search did violate the Constitution," he wrote.

Write to Jess Bravin at jess.bravin@wsj.com


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124593034315253301.html
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Re: Supreme Court Rules Strip Search of 13-Year-Old Girl Unconst

Postby marinschild » Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:24 pm

I'm glad I'm finished with my mandatory education. I can't imagine how this girl feels about what happened to her, but at least 8 "important" people acknowledged that it was wrong. I still cringe at the thought of my scoliosis check in physical education class, so who knows how this will affect her later on in life.
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Re: Supreme Court Rules Strip Search of 13-Year-Old Girl Unconst

Postby Wizard CaT » Thu Jun 25, 2009 6:36 pm

marinschild wrote:I'm glad I'm finished with my mandatory education. I can't imagine how this girl feels about what happened to her, but at least 8 "important" people acknowledged that it was wrong. I still cringe at the thought of my scoliosis check in physical education class, so who knows how this will affect her later on in life.


She is in college already.
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Re: Supreme Court Rules Strip Search of 13-Year-Old Girl Unconst

Postby Skatche » Thu Jun 25, 2009 8:37 pm

The way the American school system treats adolescents is absolutely disgusting. This statement of the obvious by the Supreme Court represents a tiny step in the right direction, but the fact that school administrators could have even thought a strip-search was acceptable in the first place says a lot about the culture of schools.
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Re: Supreme Court Rules Strip Search of 13-Year-Old Girl Unconst

Postby marinschild » Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:02 pm

Wizard CaT wrote:She is in college already.


I am a complete idiot. T.T
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Re: Supreme Court Rules Strip Search of 13-Year-Old Girl Unconst

Postby Wizard CaT » Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:56 pm

marinschild wrote:
Wizard CaT wrote:She is in college already.


I am a complete idiot. T.T


It wasn't in this revised article, but they mentioned that in the first draft I read while at work.
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Re: Supreme Court Rules Strip Search of 13-Year-Old Girl Unconst

Postby Mitsukara » Fri Jun 26, 2009 10:34 pm

I have to acknowledge ever so often that, much as I begrudge some of the problems (like having no school credit experience or diploma and a education with gaps in it) it caused me, there are several ways I was better off for my parents' decision to homeschool me (although I think there were state application programs for homeschooled students that they could've used, if they bothered or trusted the government enough to check into it).
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