When is it Proper to Strip-Search a 13-year old? (UPDATED)
If you've read the Times this morning, then you've seen Adam Liptak's piece on the remarkable case of Redding v. Safford Unified School District, which will be heard by the Supreme Court later this month.
The facts of the case are these: school officials suspected that Savana Redding had brought ibuprofen with her to school. The pills represented a violation of the school's "zero tolerance" policy, so, without a parent present or any type of legal representation, Ms. Redding was taken into a room with two female school employees. Ms. Redding was ordered to strip down to her underwear, and then was searched below her underwear for the missing pills.
Redding said she never brought the pills in the first place. And Redding's parents were so outraged, they brought a lawsuit against the district. Lower courts ruled that her Fourth Amendment rights were NOT violated, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in an en banc decision, reversed the lower courts' rulings. The case is now pending before the Supreme Court.
(Thanks to Mrs. Michaels for correcting my sloppy reading of the court documents.)
I cannot believe that the school district continues to fight this case. What it did was so obviously wrong, how can it possibly believe that it can justify its decision to strip a young woman naked over two ibuprofen tablets? AYFKM?
The Fourth Amendment protects all Americans—not just those who are white, male, and above the age of 18--from "illegal search and seizure."
The Fourth Amendment, the Ninth Amendment, and precedent protect the right to privacy that is the basis for so many of the civil rights freedoms that extend to gays and pregnant women.
I keep reading one particular quotation again and again, because, quite frankly, I cannot make sense of it.
Lawyers for the school district said in a brief that it was “on the front lines of a decades-long struggle against drug abuse among students.” Abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications is on the rise among 12- and 13-year-olds, the brief said, citing data from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Given that, the school district said, the search was “not excessively intrusive in light of Redding’s age and sex and the nature of her suspected infraction.”
The school district is justifying its strip search because OTC medication abuse is on the rise among teens that age, but what did her sex have to do with it? If I wanted to extrapolate from what's been said here, I might guess that either the district thinks that young women are especially devious at hiding things, or they're more naturally suspect, or they lie more often. Otherwise, I can't really imagine what they're talking about. Her sex? What did her sex have to do with it?
(The whole thing reminds me of the old women who were sent into rooms with women accused of witchcraft. The older women were sent to look for the devil's mark or the witch's teat, as it was often referred to. Some physical sign (a mole, a freckle, a skin tag) that proved evidence of contact with Satan.)
I wonder what the two women who conducted the search felt? They claim to not have been aware of how upset Savana was while she was being violated by them. Do they sleep at night now, knowing that Savana spent years ashamed of what had been done to her?
You know, words of fury seem pointless. I'm hoping that a majority of Supreme Court Justices will see this for what it was: a blatant violation of Fourth Amendment rights.
Or, as one of the 9th circuit justices on the case wrote:
In Ms. Redding’s case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled that school officials had violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches. Writing for the majority, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw said, “It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights.”
“More than that,” Judge Wardlaw added, “it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity.”