Thursday, June 25, 2009

Supreme Court Rules Against School in Strip-Search of Girl

I'm glad to see this one. From Reuters:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A public school violated the privacy rights of a teenage girl who had to disrobe on suspicion she had ibuprofen pills, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in its first decision on student strip searches.

By an 8-1 vote, the justices upheld a ruling that the school and its officials violated the U.S. constitutional right that protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

The ruling by the nation's high court was a major defeat for school officials who had defended the strip search as necessary for student safety, school order and combating a growing drug problem.

School officials in Safford, Arizona, had ordered the strip search in 2003 of Savana Redding, who was 13 and in the eighth grade. It did not turn up any ibuprofen -- an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication used to treat fever, headaches and pain -- or any other drugs.

"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," Justice David Souter wrote for the court majority. Supreme Court rejects school strip search

It's got to be tough to run a school, I'm sure, teenagers are hard to manage when you've got one or two at home, I can just imagine trying to maintain order at a middle school. So I understand at some level that when another girl tattled and said this girl had drugs, they may have felt they had to follow up. But, first, c'mon, it was Motrin, fer cryin' out loud. Maybe she's not supposed to have it, but sheesh. And then you have to weigh the seriousness of violating a thirteen-year-old girl's sense of modesty. If it was a machine gun, okay, you do everything you can to find it. A bottle of Motrin, I'm sorry, this is beyond what a school should be doing.

Clarence Thomas disagreed:
Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the part of the ruling that Redding's privacy rights had been violated.

Thomas said the ruling "grants judges sweeping authority to second-guess the measures that these officials take to maintain discipline in their schools and ensure the health and safety of the students in their charge."

Yes, I suppose it does put some limits on what school authorities can do to students. Good.


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