Strip Searching of Teen Goes Before Supreme Court

NPR’s Morning Edition and The Los Angeles Times report on a case before the Supreme Court in which a school is being sued for strip searching a thirteen year old girl in search for drugs. The school’s behavior was so outrageous that even some conservative bloggers are supporting the ACLU on this one.

The student was an honors student with no history of problems. The school’s lawyer rationalized this by arguing that this is only evidence that she had never been caught. In other words, students are to be considered guilty regardless of how well they have behaved.

The drug problem in the school which led to this investigation was  prescription-strength 400 mg Ibuprofen. That’s the equivalent of two over the counter Advil which contain 200 mg of Ibuprofen. The schools lawyer argued, “School administrators are not pharmacologically trained in being able to assess the relative dangers any one drug might present.” It hardly takes much training in pharmacology to add 200 plus 200 to figure out that the 400 mg Ibuprofen pill found hardly gave justification for such a search.

The lawyers on each side continued to argue their positions:

“Children call their private parts their private parts for a reason. They not subject to exposure, to observation by school officials. When children are strip-searched, they experience trauma that’s similar in kind and degree to sexual abuse,” says Wolf.

School lawyer Wright counters, “We just have to ask ourselves, as a policy matter, do you really want a drug-free environment? And if you do, then there are going to be some privacy invasions when there is reason to suspect that those drugs are being dispensed on campus, that they’re being used by students.”

I’ll risk not having a drug-free environment if the cost of a drug-free environment is strip searching teenage girls to keep out Ibuprofen.

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    “The student was an honors student with no history of problems. The school’s lawyer rationalized this by arguing that this is only evidence that she had never been caught. In other words, students are to be considered guilty regardless of how well they have behaved.”

    This is not new or unusual, though the strip searching is excessive beyond the norm. Locker searches, jacket searches, and other such procedures are frequent SOP in the schools, however. It has been the policy of educators to assume guilt in disciplinary situations for many, many years now. Parents have been taught to assume their kids are on drugs regardless of the evidence otherwise and school administration clearly practices what it teachers in this area.

    Underage drug use is a problem and I don’t think anyone would deny that, but it is a far smaller problem than both the left and the right would have us believe and it does not justify the crushing lack of trust in America’s schools. At some point in their life, to behave as responsible adults, children must be trusted to behave like responsible adults. If this never occurs, they never step up to become such.

    What is actually worse than the strip search is the fact that, had the pills been found, the kid would have been expelled under the zero tolerance policies of most school districts. An honor student with no disciplinary record expelled for a couple of Advil and with that explusion on her permanent record in an age where every little detail counts toward college admissions.

    Education is important, but our system of education needs serious examination and reform. We dehumanize our children every day and then express surprise at the crime rate and the teen pregnancy rate.

  2. 2
    Fritz says:

    I’m so very glad, for my own sake, that that was not my daughter.

  3. 3
    Ohg Rea Tone says:

    This case is an example of a bureaucrat abusing his/her authority.  It is the type of case that incites a grave distrust of Government in general.  Some will take an individual case like this and project it across the board – which points out the trouble with generalizing. ……….

    http://thefiresidepost.com/2009/04/22/when-the-bully-runs-the-school/

  4. 4
    Fritz says:

    Ohg — more importantly, the law likely allows such abuse. 

    I’m rather astonished at the parents who had the self-restraint to not engage in felonious assault in response.  I would not have been able to.  I don’t know whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

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