The case of a 13-year-old Arizona girl strip-searched by school officials looking for ibuprofen pain-reliever will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this week.
The Supreme Court has a mixed record when it comes to students’ rights.
The justices in January accepted the Safford school district case for review, and will decide whether a campus setting gives school administrators greater discretion to control students suspected of illegal activity than police are allowed in cases involving adults in general public spaces.
The case is centered around Savana Redding, now 19, who in 2003 was an eighth-grade honors student at Safford Middle School, about 127 miles from Tucson, Arizona. Redding was strip-searched by school officials after a fellow student accused her of providing prescription-strength ibuprofen pills.
The school has a zero-tolerance policy for all prescription and over-the-counter medication, including the ibuprofen, without prior written permission.
“In this case, the United States Supreme Court will decide how easy it is for school officials to strip search your child,” Adam Wolf, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing Redding, told CNN Radio on Sunday.
Redding was pulled from class by a male vice principal, escorted to an office, where she denied the accusations.
A search of Redding’s backpack found nothing. Then, although she never had prior disciplinary problems, a strip search was conducted with the help of a school nurse and Wilson’s assistant, both females. According to court records, she was ordered to strip to her underwear and her bra was pulled out. Again, no drugs were found…
At issue is whether school administrators are constitutionally barred from conducting searches of students investigated for possessing or dealing drugs that are banned on campus.
While a federal magistrate and a three-panel appeals court found the search was reasonable, the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Redding last year.
“Common sense informs us,” wrote the court, “that directing a 13-year-old girl to remove her clothes, partially revealing her breasts and pelvic area, for allegedly possessing ibuprofen … was excessively intrusive.”
This is so wrong on so many levels. I didn’t even know anyone thought this could be done, and I’m a teacher. Not once did I ever consider a strip search as a way to find any answer. I can’t believe it got as far as the Supreme Court.