UPDATE: Supreme Court rules strip search unconstitutional, saying that only when student safety is at risk may school officials strip search students. The search of her backpack and outer clothes was permissible, not searching her underwear! The ruling was 8 to 1. School officials are not personally liable, unfortunately, and the lower courts will determine if the school system can be sued. Read more at Huffington Post.
ORIGINAL POST: USA Today reported the Supreme Court reviewed a case involving the strip search of a high school student. Savana Redding says she thinks about the strip search every day. Back in 2003, a school administrator pulled her out of class, searched her backpack and then ordered an administrative aide and school nurse to strip search her. They were looking for prescription-strength Ibuprofen. Another student had been caught with the medication and said Savana had provided the pills.
The administrative aide and school nurse, both women, ordered Savana to take off her shoes and socks, then her shirt and pants, and then to pull open her bra and panties to see if she was hiding pills. They did not find any.
Savana was traumatized and humiliated by the search. She was a shy teenager who never wore shorts and skirts to school. After the search, she never returned to the school and did not graduate high school, despite being an honor student at the time of the search.
Savana wonders whether she should have protested the search that day. Fortunately, Savana and her mother found the strength to fight back and sued the school. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled 6-to-5 against school officials at Safford High School and said they should be held financially responsible.
The Supreme Court reviewed the case on April 16, 2009. The verdict will impact all schools nationwide.
Back in 1985, the Supreme Court ruled that school officials can search personal belonging such as purses for illegal drugs. In that case, school officials had searched a New Jersey freshman after she was caught smoking in a bathroom. Cases involving drug testing for athletics and extra curricular activities reached the court in 1995 and 2002 and in both instances the court sided with school officials.
Savana’s case will determine if there are any limits on searches.
Readers: If school officials or even the police try to strip search you – CALL YOUR PARENTS! School officials, like many government officials, are trained to convince you to give up your rights. You are not trained to defend your rights. Your parents will at least have years of experience dealing with dangerous people and will be able to help you defend your right to privacy.
The administrators may try to rush you. They may say they will keep you in the office for hours. They may say if you cooperate they won’t note the incident in your record. They may say any resistance will jeopardize your chances of going to college or they may threaten to suspend or expel you. Listen to their threats, KEEP YOUR CLOTHES ON, and CALL YOUR PARENTS. Then wait for your parents to arrive, even if they work hours away. There is no rush.
Prepare right now by visualizing yourself in the situation and being calm and patient. You could say, “I will not discuss the incident further until my parents arrive.”
Learn from an activist who was recently harassed by government airport officials. These officials routinely pressure people during airport searches. This activist patiently defends his rights during a LONG interrogation at an airport. More Â»
Please note: This article is for informational purposes only. You should consult a lawyer for all legal advice.