Strip Searches In Schools?

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Bad Decisions, Drugs, Law, Supreme Court

Are we really ready to do this to kids? And the important part here is that the student in question was on the honor roll and they were searching her for prescription-strength ibuprofen pills.

Yes, ibuprofen.

From Wash Post…

An important case at the Supreme Court sometimes informs as much about the justices as the issue at hand, and yesterday’s animated hearing on whether school officials have the right to strip-search a 13-year-old female student seemed just such a case.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wondered if the incident was much different from the experience of disrobing for gym class. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy affirmed his deep concerns about illicit drugs. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seemed at times on the edge of exasperation with her all-male colleagues. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. searched for a way to make the issue go away.

But it was Justice David H. Souter who seemed to sum up the dilemma for a majority of the court. He put himself in the place of a school official balancing the need for keeping his young charges safe from drugs while respecting the constitutional protections even middle school students should receive.
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“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 to have some other kids dead because the stuff is distributed at lunchtime and things go awry,” Souter said.

Sure, but how big of a problem is this really? Lots of kids ODing on ibuprofen? I mean, come on…

And how far do we want to go down the “If one child gets hurt…” road? Life is full of danger, and there are laws in place to make sure we have reasonable assumptions of safety. But there’s no such thing as complete safety, and it feels like that’s what we’re aiming at with this.

Color me concerned because this slippery slope seems ripe for abuse.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 and is filed under Bad Decisions, Drugs, Law, Supreme Court. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 Responses to “Strip Searches In Schools?”

  1. Mike Casey Says:

    Any pedophiles out there in need of a job?

  2. Mike A Says:

    Mike C. – don’t bring religion into this discussion!

  3. TerenceC Says:

    It sounds to me like BS of course. I’m wondering if she copped an attitude about the farcical request to search and some weak minded administrator at the school didn’t like his authority being questioned by a kid? They certainly went too far though didn’t they?

  4. The Maine View Says:

    I hope she copped an attitude. It is unfortunate her parents never taught her that you don’t have to listen to authority if they are being unreasonable. They were going on what some girl said when she herself was caught with pills for crissakes. I guess conjecture and hearsay are grounds for strip searches now.

    I would hope that my daughters would refuse to be strip searched without knowing the probable cause, having their mother there, and a female law enforcement officer present.

    Lockers, backpacks, and purses are one thing. Humiliation without having solid proof that you will find something is unacceptable.

  5. ExiledIndependent Says:

    Most “zero tolerance” policies are mental shorthand that free school administators from any sort of critical thinking, judgement, and decision making. Patently idiotic. Souter’s got it wrong here. One would hope that erosions of personal freedoms would have abated after Emperor George’s reign ended, but obviously the band plays on.

  6. Stones Cry Out - If they keep silent… » Things Heard: e64v4 Says:

    [...] Or is it time to close the schools? [...]

  7. Jay Says:

    Hearing about this sickens me.

    When did a public school get to be ahead of the law? Hearsay from a minor hardly constitutes probable cause for any law enforcement agency. Why does a school administrator get to make this call. I’m not familiar with this case previously, but I’m surprised that the family didn’t press criminal charges on the administration. (Does anyone know if they did, or if it is even possible?)

    I, for one, cannot believe that the father did not tear that place up. Can you imagine getting that phone call from your daughter? I will never surrender my rights, and especially the rights of my family. And if need be, I will GLADLY stop them physically.

    Ibuprofen. May God help us. Best case scenario for the school here? Make kids wait until after school to go to the drug/grocery/convenience store and pick some up? Is that worth a strip search? What is happening here?

  8. Jay Says:

    Heres a bit more insight from what Souter said:

    “But justices worried that allowing a strip search of school age children might lead to more intrusive searches, like body cavity searches. ‘There would be no legal basis in saying that was out of bounds,’ Souter said.”

    From: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103326158

    This makes me feel a bit better. It sounds like he at least gets the gravity of the situation, a bit more than the Washington Post article (above) made it sound like anyways.

  9. kranky kritter Says:

    What exiled said!

    We’re largely getting what we deserve with policies like this, BTW. Collectively, the existence of such policies is proof that in general, we think it’s too hard to come up with a comprehensive and sane policy.

    At the very least, all parents ought to be allowed to grant permission for the kids to do and have whatever legal things they want when they are at school unless any such item has been banned for a legitimately acknowledged pedagogical reason that has been recognized and approved by some council composed of both school officials and parents.

    I’d have no problem with school disallowing games, cell phones, ipods, and so on. But ibuprophen? Any parent willing to sign a consent form allowing their kid to have it and accepting 100% liability if their child shares this medication with someone else to adverse effect should be allowed to do so.

  10. ShortWoman Says:

    I still can’t imagine why, if this was so important, they didn’t call her parents and/or the cops before strip-searching her….

    If we are really going to use the “[deity] forbid someone gets hurt” rule, gym class needs to be permanently canceled. A kid might slip and fall! A kid might get hit with a ball! It’s rare, but now and then you hear about some kid dying in P.E.!

    And “Ibuprofen? WTH!” is not an argument. School rules have been “no meds of any kind unless you have a doctors note and the school nurse administers it” for as long as I can remember. Focus instead on the fact that some meathead administrator decided that it was more efficient to STRIP SEARCH a student on the say so of some kid who was already in trouble than to call the kid’s parents. And some equally meathead school superintendent thought this was worth wasting money to take this all the way to the Supreme Court instead of issuing an apology and clarifying some policies.

  11. shawn Says:

    The fact that it was only ibruprofen is relevant, and not only just because it makes this whole episode even more ridiculous. Such broad based zero tolerance rules can in some ways seem to make sense at first, but they’re really counterproductive. Kids aren’t stupid. If you tell them that possession of ibruprofen is just as serious a problem as possession of an illegal drug, then you’re throwing away your credibility. You’re telling someone that it’s so dangerous that it can’t be risked having it in school, and then later that day that same individual can see it sitting out on a grocery store shelf, they realize that you’re full of crap.

  12. Chris Says:

    I would add to all that is said above that a school should never, ever have the right to strip search a child for any reason. If they are that dangerous law enforcement should be called and take her/him away. I would also call being strip searched a sexual assault.

  13. Ken Says:

    Guys, whatever happens here, it’s not the end of the road even if Savana loses. Sure, the SCOTUS justices are obviously clueless about the level of trauma these types of searches can cause, but almost every state in the country has a method of amending state constitutions via the citizens of that state. If she loses at SCOTUS, we take referendums to our fellow citizens at the next election and prohibit the strip search of any person (other than prison inmates) in the absence of a probable cause and a warrant. What happened to Savana was absolutely disgusting and wrong, but even if it’s allowed under the federal constitution it doesn’t mean we have to allow it under the constitutions of our states.

  14. Duckman Says:

    What, rights? We have rights? Our children have rights? Preposterous… wait a minute… are you all just a bunch of wacko libertarians?

    Seriously, strip searches over something like this? Just one more step down the conversion of public education into a prison-like atmosphere. Incredible… these strip searches should be stopped at the federal, state, and local level.

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