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Strip-Search Case Tests Limits of 4th Amendment 1240

Posted by kdawson
from the stand-and-deliver dept.
langelgjm writes "The US Supreme Court has agreed to review a case involving the strip-searching of a 13 year-old girl who was accused of possessing prescription-strength ibuprofen on school grounds, in violation of the school's zero-tolerance drug policy. The case has gained national attention because of the defining role it will play in determining which, if any, parts of the Constitution apply on school grounds. In Morse v. Frederick, the Supreme Court has already upheld the right of school administrators to restrict students' free speech at school-sponsored events that take place off school property. The school described the strip-search as 'not excessively intrusive in light of [the student's] age and sex and the nature of her suspected infraction.' The Supreme Court's last decision about searches on school property dealt only with searching a student's purse. Incidentally, the girl was found not to be in possession of any drugs, illegal or otherwise."
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Strip-Search Case Tests Limits of 4th Amendment

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @06:37PM (#27320625)

    Fucking forced logins..... here's the whole article:

    March 24, 2009
    Strip-Search of Girl Tests Limit of School Policy

    SAFFORD, Ariz. - Savana Redding still remembers the clothes she had on - black stretch pants with butterfly patches and a pink T-shirt - the day school officials here forced her to strip six years ago. She was 13 and in eighth grade.

    An assistant principal, enforcing the school's antidrug policies, suspected her of having brought prescription-strength ibuprofen pills to school. One of the pills is as strong as two Advils.

    The search by two female school employees was methodical and humiliating, Ms. Redding said. After she had stripped to her underwear, "they asked me to pull out my bra and move it from side to side," she said. "They made me open my legs and pull out my underwear."

    Ms. Redding, an honors student, had no pills. But she had a furious mother and a lawyer, and now her case has reached the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on April 21.

    The case will require the justices to consider the thorny question of just how much leeway school officials should have in policing zero-tolerance policies for drugs and violence, and the court is likely to provide important guidance to schools around the nation.

    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."

    Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, dissenting, said the case was in some ways "a close call," given the "humiliation and degradation" involved. But, Judge Hawkins concluded, "I do not think it was unreasonable for school officials, acting in good faith, to conduct the search in an effort to obviate a potential threat to the health and safety of their students."

    Richard Arum, who teaches sociology and education at New York University, said he would have handled the incident differently. But Professor Arum said the Supreme Court should proceed cautiously.

    "Do we really want to encourage cases," Professor Arum asked, "where students and parents are seeking monetary damages against educators in such school-specific matters where reasonable people can disagree about what is appropriate under the circumstances?"

    The Supreme Court's last major decision on school searches based on individual suspicion - as opposed to systematic drug testing programs - was in 1985, when it allowed school officials to search a student's purse without a warrant or probable cause as long their suspicions were reasonable. It did not address intimate searches.

    In a friend-of-the-court brief in Ms. Redding's case, the federal government said the search of her was unreasonable because officials had no reason to believe she was "carrying the pills inside her undergarments, attached to her nude body, or anywhere else that a strip search would reveal."

    The government added, though, that the scope of the 1985 case was not well established at the time of the 2003 search, so the assistant principal should not be subject to a lawsuit.

    Sitting in her aunt's house in this bedraggled mining town a two-hour drive northeast of Tucson, Ms. Redding, now 19, described the middle-school cliques and jealousies that she said had led to the search. "There are preppy kids, gothic kids, nerdy types," she said. "I was in between nerdy and preppy."

    One of her friends since early childhood had moved in another direction. "She started acting weird and wearing black," Ms. Redding said. "She started being embarrassed by me because I was nerdy."

    When the friend was found with ibuprofen pills, she blamed Ms. Redding, according to court p

  • Re:sexual assault (Score:4, Informative)

    by KTheorem (999253) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @06:42PM (#27320705)
    It's still sexual assault. The sex of the perpetrator doesn't matter. Whether the person doing the search is getting their jollies from it doesn't matter. There is no valid reason for anyone not a cop following proper procedure to have strip searched anyone, especially a child. I say, when the attacker lacks balls to crush, go for the ovaries. The attackers deserve whatever violence the girl could have mustered for violating her.
  • by Lehk228 (705449) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @06:49PM (#27320855) Journal
    my school actually had a fairly reasonable definition. guns, blades, clubs, or any object that can be used as a weapon if it is used as one.

    rather than trying to split hairs on what is and isn't a weapon they listed a few obvious ones and made it clear if you beat the crap outta someone with something else it would be considered a weapon no matter how clever you were in "proving" it wasn't a weapon.
  • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabre ... rg minus painter> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @06:54PM (#27320941) Homepage
    And homeschooling keeps them away from all those stupid people during their formative years and makes them completely inadequately prepared for having to deal with the rest of the world when they're kicked out of the house. I've known too many homeschooled kids to think that it's socially beneficial for them. They're often taken advantage of, and trodden upon because they don't have the social skills to deal with bullies and assholes.
  • by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:01PM (#27321075) Homepage
    Just to be perfectly pedantic, the article states that the 'prescription strength' ibuprofen was equal to two OTC pills. There are 400 and 600 mg prescription pills but they are hardly prescribed anymore (at least in the US) because it's hardly worth it...

    Of course, that makes this whole thing even more stupid.
  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:07PM (#27321181)
    In this case it is quite obvious the girl was not high on painkillers, wasn't selling them, and didn't even have solid evidence she even had them when she was accused.

    It is kinda hard to get high on Ibuprofen, either OTC or prescription.

    I don't know why you say it is obvious she wasn't selling them. The Fine Article says that someone else was caught with them (apparently without the required prescription) and she was accused of providing them. That removes the "obvious she wasn't selling" part for me. It's not proof she was, just no longer an obvious assumption she wasn't.

    A 13 year old should be perfectly allowed to carry ibuprofen, even prescription strength (which is only equal to like 3 regular pills) on their person especially if there was some need for them.

    IF she has a prescription, I agree fully. That puts her under a doctor's orders, under the supervision of a physician. The school MUST NOT pretend to know better. Period.

    Unfortunately, apparently neither girl had the "get out of jail free" card to justify carrying them. If you allow drugs without that prescription, the school then has to start drawing the line "which drugs are ok", and I, for one, don't think the schools have the understanding or ability to draw that line correctly, or SHOULD have the responsibility of drawing the line.

    Without being able to draw a valid "this ok, this not" line, the safest line to draw is "none are ok". That prevents the schools from becoming a place where kids whose parents love pills distribute them to kids whose parents don't approve, or to kids who are allergic or react badly to whatever it is. It seems that even something simple like ibuprofen has bad side effects if even small overdoses are taken. No, a "no drugs" policy is more reasonable than an arbitrary "some ok, some not" that can result in rules-lawyering and elective enforcement, and maybe worse.

    Here's two points based on the FA that need to be made. First, one of the lawyers said that the school had no reason to believe that the girl was carrying the pills in her underwear or next to her body. I disagree. Another student accused her of supplying the pills. If they did not find the source in her locker or in her purse, then they had to be somewhere else. The next most logical place is stuck in her bra. While it was not likely, it was far from "no reason to believe".

    Second, this girl is 19 now. She was 13 when this happened. What happened to the concept of "statute of limitations"? Why wasn't the case brought up when she was 13?

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:14PM (#27321323) Homepage Journal
    The fact that ANOTHER child, in ANOTHER INCIDENT, may or may not have overdosed on a drug, regardless of it's legality, has no bearing on THIS CASE. Holding that other incident out as a mitigating circumstance only confuses the issue at hand.
  • How do you know that the law in the USA is not already a complete joke?

    13 year old girl gets strip searched for allegedly possessing prescription strength ibuprofen. Not pot or crack or cocaine, but pain killers. For all we know she could have had a prescription for them and didn't give them to the school nurse yet because she was busy with classwork.

    Most schools usually call in the Police to do searches esp strip searches so they aren't found liable. But it is usually for illegal contraband not prescription pain killers.

  • by JakFrost (139885) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:21PM (#27321453)

    Here is information for the docket for this case from the US Supreme Court's web site. Feel free to show your support by joining Join the American Civil Liberties Union [].

    US Supreme Court - Docket - 08-479 []

  • by fugue (4373) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:25PM (#27321535) Homepage
    Don't most sexually mature women carry the strongest ibuprofen they can lay their hands on for at least a few days every month? I know I would!
  • by schon (31600) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @09:27PM (#27323315)

    Are you completely insane?

    No. But considering the following, it's quite obvious that you are:

    Teachers should need to get warrants to stop children dealing drugs in school?

    Please show where the child was dealing drugs. You'll note that she wasn't. She was accused of carrying prescription drugs, which (A) is not illegal, (B) is not "dealing", and (C) NEVER HAPPENED.

    But it's great that you can skip the whole "proof" and "investigation" thing and guilty right to "guilty".

    So this is "sexual abuse" now?

    You'd better fucking believe it.

    They didn't even make her take all her clothes off

    Ahh, so you're saying that it can't be sexual assault unless she was naked? This attorney [] disagrees with you. Just because she wasn't completely naked doesn't mean it wasn't sexual assault. Or do you also believe that a rapist should be aquitted solely because he let his victims keep their clothes on?

    and the search was done by women

    So you're saying it's impossible for a woman to commit sexual assault?

    What colour is the sky in your world?

  • Re:Ibuprofen pusher? (Score:1, Informative)

    by notbob (73229) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:00PM (#27323673) Homepage

    Legally any citizen of any age has inalienable rights the second they are born in this country.

    What does this mean?

    Illegal Search and Seizure is not alienable for any reason (being 18, being in a school, etc...).

    There was no due process to establish the necessity of the search or possible seizure.

    The reason the word inalienable was used in the constitution was to explicitly define the fact that bullshit like schools / etc.. cannot invent their own rules to violate those rights. Inalienable means by definition you cannot be alienated from those rights period done.

    Her parents should be suing the school into oblivion over this one. Violating the child's constitutional rights, not informing the child of their right to have legal counsel prior to consenting to this search, this whole case is stacked to the rafters of violations and gross sexual misconduct.

    How do we know she really had ibuprofin that you couldn't find and wasn't just a sick scam by the school to strip a 13 year old girl for their own sick deviances?

    At what point is the quest against drugs that we use in our daily lives becomes worth more then the people we're so called trying to protect / defend?

    Frankly I think the girl should get to strip search every single one of these bastards that did this to her and win more then enough money for all the counseling she needs and so she can donate a giant 20 ft tall memorial to the us constitution right on the front lawn of the school.

  • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld&gmail,com> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:32PM (#27323951)

    They had shit. Here's an older article concerning the case, before it got to the Supreme Court: []

    Here is the relevant info:

    Savana Redding, an eighth grade honor roll student at Safford Middle School in Safford, Arizona, was pulled from class on October 8, 2003 by the school's vice principal, Kerry Wilson. Earlier that day, Wilson had discovered prescription-strength ibuprofen - 400 milligram pills equivalent to two over-the-counter ibuprofen pills, such as Advil - in the possession of Redding's classmate. Under questioning and faced with punishment, the classmate claimed that Redding, who had no history of disciplinary problems or substance abuse, had given her the pills. Safford maintains a zero-tolerance policy toward all prescription medicines, including prescription-strength ibuprofen.

    After escorting Redding to his office, Wilson presented Redding with the ibuprofen pills and informed her of her classmate's accusations. Redding said she had never seen the pills before and agreed to a search of her possessions, wanting to prove she had nothing to hide. Joined by a female school administrative assistant, Wilson searched Redding's backpack and found nothing. Instructed by Wilson, the administrative assistant then took Redding to the school nurse's office in order to perform a strip search.

    In the school nurse's office, Redding was ordered to strip to her underwear. She was then commanded to pull her bra out and to the side, exposing her breasts, and to pull her underwear out at the crotch, exposing her pelvic area. The strip search failed to uncover any ibuprofen pills.

    "The strip search was the most humiliating experience I have ever had," said Redding in a sworn affidavit following the incident. "I held my head down so that they could not see that I was about to cry."

    It was pure abuse of authority by a moron who didn't understand he didn't have any.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:19PM (#27324407)
    Ummm, other countries seem to do well against the Abrams tanks and F-16s very well. It's called Guerrilla warefare: []

    If it was as easy and as simple as you mention, we could have been out of Iraq in 2 days. Oops, It seems like it is not that simple.

  • Re:"public" schools? (Score:2, Informative)

    by robinesque (977170) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:34AM (#27324977)
    I went to a private school for 5 years, and it wasn't of the religious variety. Students and parents benefit from private schools because everyone gets more time with the teachers, and everyone knows everyone a lot better. There's less anonymity, and the teachers are able to connect to the students in a way that's rarely possible in the industrialized public schools of today.
  • by Tuoqui (1091447) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:43AM (#27325039) Journal

    I say sue the bastards into the ground...

    1) School Staff are NOT Law Enforcement Officers and do not have the right to search and seizure at the same levels as a cop.
    2) On the flip side the 13 year old girl could have reasonably told them to 'fuck off' and left. If they tried to stop her then they would be dealing with harassment and assault charges.
    3) Where are the child molestation, sexual interference, etc... charges? What they subjected the girl was tantamount to rape.

    Long story short, even Cops need a fairly high bar in order to require a strip search of a suspect that is a legal adult. What these School Staff had was far less, basically relying on hearsay from another student to basically strip search, humiliate and molest a 13 year old girl. Clearly the Supreme Court should bitchslap these school staff and the school and the school board as a result of this outright stupidity.

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @12:53AM (#27325079)

    Slavery could not have happened without the individual right to bear arms.

    So... what about all the other nation- and city-states over the many millennia prior to the historic emancipations in the modern era? I suppose slavery just disappeared in Athens when Pisistratus disarmed the citizenry? Revisionists like you make me sick. You want so desperately to sink private ownership of arms that you'll reach out and tie it to anything and everything abhorrent that you possibly can. I once had a person tell me that if the Jews of Europe hadn't been disarmed by the Nazi's gun control laws in the 30's that the holocaust would have been worse because if Hitler were assassinated it would have made him a martyr. The willful disingenuity of it all is staggering.

    You would have people believe that it was the Southern states alone who pushed for the amendment, ignoring the precedents in the constitutions of Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. I suppose facts like that get in the way of conning people into negative associations.

  • by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:39AM (#27325691)
    You're a pretty good troll - look at the response you've gotten. On the off chance you're serious, consider this: the NRA in their early days subsidised gun purchases for blacks so they could fend off Klan lynchings.
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @09:01AM (#27328205) Journal

    Is there any particular reason you consider the US military to be different?

    Well, for starters, the US military swears an oath to uphold the US Constitution, not to blindly follow the orders of the Commander-in-Chief. You are also taught in the US military to disobey illegal orders.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @09:57AM (#27328985)
    No, the practical reason for the 2nd Amendment was the same as the practical reason for the other 9 amendments it accompanied--to gather the popular support needed to get the Constitution ratified by the states. The Federalists reluctantly tacked on these amendments as a necessary assurance that the new, more powerful, federal government would not become as heavy-handed and oppressive as the British government. The 2nd Amendment was one of the most interesting of the bunch--both a promise that gun confiscation would not be permitted (the British had frequently done this) and a subtle (if unwritten) acknowledgment that the people would still have the power and means to resist and overthrow the new government should it become too oppressive. This subtle acknowledgment wouldn't last long beyond ratification, however. Once the Federalists got their new government, one of their first acts was to start imposing British-style taxes. And when the people of western Pennsylvania rebelled against the whiskey tax, the new government quickly suppressed their resistance in what was to become known as the Whiskey Rebellion [] (ironically the army that suppressed them was led by the father of Robert E. Lee, who would later help lead the most major U.S. rebellion to date).
  • by hoppo (254995) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @11:48AM (#27330391)

    You're a little mixed up there. The U.S. succeeded in its objective of maintaining South Vietnam's sovereignty in 1972, with full troop withdrawal in 1973. From 1972-1975, the South army was able to keep the NVA out, with minimal support from U.S. ground troops and significant U.S. air support (after all, it's far easier to build up a ground army than an air force).

    It wasn't until a couple years AFTER South Vietnam had been established as a sovereign state that Congress voted to turn their backs and cut off U.S. air support. Only then did the NVA overrun the country.

    So, yes. The U.S. capitulated. But only after it had won. It was an embarrassing display of betrayal and cowardice.

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