When Stupid Attacks With Pantysniffers' Help
So a 13-year-old honor student goes to school one day, and her classmate gets busted for having ibuprofen. Classmate fingers the honor student as having supplied the pills ... and the girl ends up strip-searched. Lawsuit ensues, with the aid of the ACLU. The US Supreme Court justices don't seem to care as much about the Constitution and Bill of Rights as about the kiddie-porn imagery, though.
"So if you have a reasonable suspicion that the student has drugs and you search every other place (and don't find any drugs) ... don't you have (a) reasonable suspicion that she has drugs in her underpants?" (USSC Justice Antonin) Scalia asked (during yesterday's oral arguments).
"No," (David O'Neil, assistant to the Solicitor General arguing on independent grounds for reversal) O'Neil said.
"Your logic fails me," Scalia said.
The search followed an unsupported accusation -- and the student who made it didn't say the student being searched currently had possession of ibuprofen, just that the pills the caught student had were received from that student previously. The student searched didn't have a history of discipline problems.
While Justice David Souter seemed to think this level of intrusive search excessive for possession of a common painkiller, Chief Justice Roberts apparently doubted that limits on searches of students and their clothes could ever be a good thing
Adam B. Wolf, an attorney for the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project in Santa Cruz, Calif., represented the student.
He argued that, in addition to the government's proffered location-specific standard, school officials need "a greater degree of suspicion to conduct a strip search than to conduct an ordinary backpack search."
When Wolf noted that strip searching students can have psychological effects, Souter again spoke up.
"My thought process is I would rather have the kid embarrassed by a strip search, if we can't find anything short of that, than ... have some other kids dead because the stuff is distributed at lunchtime and things go awry," Souter said.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. wondered how far his rule could go.
"Are you saying it's unreasonable to take off the outer garments even if your reasonable suspicion for justifying the preliminary search is that the student has heroin?"
"Without any location-specific information, that's correct," Wolf said. "And anything else would send a shudder down the spines of little boys and girls around this country."
How many parents would react positively to this treatment of their daughters? Athenae and a Dkos poster both consider this insane, given that if anybody other than a school principal had strip-searched a 13-year-old it'd mean a call to CPS at the least and a lifelong record as a sex offender for the searcher. So I'm with them. How come it's okay for school authorities to treat a young woman in this humiliating manner?
The ACLU represents Savana Redding, who was strip-searched by school officials when she was 13 years old based on the uncorroborated accusation of a fellow student who had been found with prescription strength ibuprofen (equivalent to two Advils) that she had received the pills from Savana at some unspecified time and place. After being told to remove her pants and shirt by school officials, Savana was then told to lift her panties and bra, exposing her breasts and pelvic area. The search confirmed what Savana had already told school officials: she did not have any pills in her possession. The case raises two questions, both of which were resolved in Savana's favor by the lower court. First, was the strip search unconstitutional? Second, was it so clearly unconstitutional that Savana is entitled to recover damages for the invasion of her personal privacy? Among other things, the ACLU brief argues that school officials should be required to have more evidence of wrongdoing to strip-search a student than to search her backpack.