Posts Tagged ‘Savana Redding’

SCOTUS: Strip search was illegal

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Following up on the Safford Middle School strip search case, an 8-1 decision:

Supreme Court Rules School’s Strip Search of Girl Was Illegal

The Supreme Court ruled today that Arizona school officials violated the constitutional rights of a 13-year-old girl when they subjected her to a strip search on the suspicion she might be hiding ibuprofen in her underwear.

The court ruled 8-1 that such an intrusive search without the threat of a clear danger to other students violated the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable search or seizure.

Lyle Denniston, writing at SCOTUS blog points out that :

The new rule is that searching students’ inner clothing, with exposure of their bodies, will be extremely difficult — though not impossible — to justify.

The other constitutional rule — searches of public school students’ backpacks, notebooks, other belongings, outer clothing, and pockets are generally allowed if they are based on “reasonable suspicion” — remains as it has for a quarter-century, but with a small amount of refinement, the exact scope of which is not quite clear.


Thursday’s decision only applies to future searches, so the Constitution does not provide them a remedy.

And, hopefully, this will prevent cavity searches, too.

You can read the decision here (h/t Reason).

Absence of conscience: The SCOTUS and the strip-search case

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

The NYTimes today reports that the SCOTUS may find it OK to strip search children at school in the absence of their parents and an attorney:

Justice Souter may have summarized the mood of the court near the end of the argument in the case, Safford Unified School District v. Redding, No. 08-479. Several justices appeared troubled by the search, but also seemed loath to second-guess school officials confronted with a variety of dangerous substances.

“My thought process,” Justice Souter said, “is I would rather have the kid embarrassed by a strip search, if we can’t find anything short of that, than to have some other kids dead because the stuff is distributed at lunchtime and things go awry.”

The unserious tone of the NYTimes article is particularly grating but you can read the transcript of the oral arguments here and skip the NYT’s reporter’s snark.

In yesterday’s panel at PU, Lyle Denniston commented that the Court might decide in favor of the school district. Denniston’s analysis at SCOTUS Blog emphasizes that the Court’s decision may be driven by fear that the possibility of a drug overdose overrides a child’s rights:

It was common for members of the Court — and, especially, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — to express discomfort with an Arizona prinicipal’s order for a close-to-naked search of a 13-year-old girl. But that sentiment did not appear to be as strong as the concern that drugs may be so destructive for teenagers that some surer means of detecting them had to be acceptable under the Constitution.

No more telling illustration of the Court’s mood emerged than Justice David H. Souter — whose vote would almost have to be won for student privacy to prevail – expressing a preference for “a sliding scale of risk” that would add to search authority — including strip searching — based on how school officials assessed whether “sickness or death” was at stake.

“If the school official’s thought process,” Souter asked, “was ‘I’d rather have a kid embarrassed rather than some other kid dead,’ isn’t that reasonable under the Fourth Amendment?” Stated in that stark way almost compelled agreement, without regard to whether a student singled out for a strip search was actually adding to such a risk, but was only the target of a classmate’s unverified tip.

As you know, I am absolutely appalled that a school district would conduct

  • a strip search
  • on a child
  • based on another student’s claim that the child gave them
  • ibuprofen.

By the way, according to the transcript, said strip search was performed before they searched her locker or her desk. The child’s parents were not notified before the strip search was performed. She was not allowed any civil protections at all.

This is absolutely outrageous.

To add to my wrath (and words fail me over just how angry this makes me), you can find this exchange between Justice Scalia and Matthew Wright in the transcript:

JUSTICE SCALIA: Could I come back to your distinguishing a strip search from a cavity search. What would you require before you would allow a cavity search?
MR. WRIGHT: Nothing at all. A bright line rule. I would not allow it.
JUSTICE SCALIA: No cavity search in school, no matter what?
MR. WRIGHT: We’re not even clinically trained to do that, Your Honor. I would submit that if a child has something stuffed up one of their cavities — and I assume we mean private parts, the very private parts — that the first thing to do would be to send them to the hospital. I mean, we just don’t have that clinical training.

In plain English, the school district would not allow a cavity search on a minor because they “just don’t have that clinical training.” And later, that it would be up to the “local level” to decide on strip searches.

I can only surmise one thing from this forthcoming “immolation of privacy and human dignity in symbolic opposition to drug use”: you can’t have a conscience and be a SCOTUS justice.

God forgive us all. What a disgrace.

Prior post here.

Betsy has more.

The outrageous case of the ibuprofen strip search

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

I was on CNN Live‘s Blogger Bunch at noon, with Gina Cooper, Aaron Karo and Vanessa Van Patten, and hosts Reggie Aqui and Naamua Delaney discussed the case of the teen strip-searched for ibuprofen.

This is an outrageous case for many reasons:
First of all, that any kind of search on the person of a minor was done without the parents being a. informed b. present, and c. accompanied by a lawyer.
I specify on the person since schools can and do search school lockers and backpacks. There are schools where security necessitates that lockers and backpacks be searched, and as Delaney and Aqui pointed out, a SCOTUS decision said it was not unconstitutional to search backpacks.

However, any kind of body search, including pat-downs, is a much different thing. The Safford Middle School did an actual strip search, a traumatic incident even to an adult.

The parents have every reason to sue.

Equally outrageous is the fact that the school district has pressed this court case all the way up to the Supreme Court.
The entire school board and all the administrators and employees involved should have been fired. It boggles the mind to realize that the school district has persisted in incurring the kind of expense involved in pursuing this case, even after a federal appeals court deemed the search “excessively intrusive.”

The Bill Of Rights, in the Fourth Amendment specifies (emphasis added),

Amendment 4 – Search and Seizure. Ratified 12/15/1791.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The CNN article reports,

In its appeal to the high court, the school district said requiring a legal standard of “probable cause” to conduct student searches would cast a “roadblock to the kind of swift and effective response that is too often needed to protect the very safety of students, particularly from the threats posed by drugs and weapons.”

So let me ask you something:
Now that the punk Somali pirate has arrived in Manhattan and is awaiting trial, where he will be granted every protection under our Constitution, does that mean he is afforded more rights than our own school children?

As I said in the show, anyone who is a parent or who cares about our children should be outraged.