13-year-old’s school strip-search case heads to Supreme Court

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.

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10 thoughts on “13-year-old’s school strip-search case heads to Supreme Court

  1. Ah, yes. Arizona schools and their lovely zero-tolerance policies on drugs. And yet, a principal can have a student brought to school by the police, hold the kid down and shove Ritalin down that kid’s throat just to make sure the kid takes a fucking test. Can’t give your friend Motrin or Advil, though, or you get strip searched by the vice-principal. Damn, there are days when I really hate this state that I live in.

  2. @nyokki: Argh. Seriously, what the hell is going on? I really, really would like to go back to a time when people took responsibility for their own actions and their own kids and didn’t expect schools to raise the little ones. Case in point: Character education in schools. It burns me up to think that parents are now expecting their kids to be taught character in schools. Isn’t that the whole point of being a parent?!

  3. @Annarchy: Totally agree. I also remember when the school and parents worked to together. If I did something wrong once, the teacher let me know. Do it again, parents got called. That could happen several times (depending on the infraction). If that didn’t work THEN the school might take matters into their own hands.
    All that said, what does the school do if there is no parent at home to call. Part of what makes it possible is having one parent at home to deal w/ the kid when the kid gets home? Sometimes it is about quantity time.

  4. @nyokki: I don’t know that not having a stay at home parent is what the problem is. I was a latchkey kid from 7 to 15 and believe me, if I screwed up at school, my parents were notified. I work with lots of people who have kids and they get calls on their cells and work phones if something happens at school. It’s just so frustrating that people who are my age can’t seem to remember how they were raised or think that they know better and end up screwing up an entire system. Although, I should just keep my mouth shut, since I don’t have kids.

  5. @Annarchy: No, you’re right, it is not necessary to have a stay at home parent; it helps though. Both hubby and I worked, but someone was always home when the kids were home. I realize that not everyone can do that, but they should try. Once you’ve had a kid it becomes your responsibility to be there for them and it needs to be more than just quality time. It’s almost impossible to have quality time w/out quantity time. Your kids need to know they matter, that you’re there for them, even if they don’t need you at the moment. It’s important as a preventative to trouble rather than dealing w/ trouble after it has occurred.

  6. I didn’t read this whole thread, but here is my two cents on the original issue.

    School officials should not have the power to strip search anyone. This should be determined only by a police officer.

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