Thursday, June 25, 2009

Today The Supreme Court Ruled that School Administrators Violated The Fourth Amendment Rights When A Strip Search Was Conducted Looking For Ibuprofen

Today the Supreme Court ruled that school officials violated the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment Right that protects against unreasonable searches and seizures when an assistant principal ordered a strip search in Safford, Arizona, in 2003 of Savana Redding, who was in the eighth grade. Following an assistant principal's orders, a school nurse had Redding remove her clothes, including her bra, and shake her underwear to see if she was hiding ibuprofen, a common painkiller.
School officials did not find ibuprofen, which is found in over-the-counter medications like Advil and Motrin. Higher doses require a prescription.
An unverified tip from another girl who had Redding’s school planner and some ibuprofen pills had prompted the strip search. She claimed Redding had given her the pills.

Redding denied it and an initial search of her backpack and pockets did not turn up any ibuprofen. The assistant principal then ordered the strip search to be done in front of the nurse and his administrative assistant, both women.
Redding said, “She was embarrassed, scared and about to cry.” She said, “She felt humiliated and violated by the strip search.” Because of the pain and suffering this incident caused this young woman Redding's lawyers argued that a school official simply cannot order a strip search any time a frightened student points an accusatory finger at another student. Her lawyers also indicated that if the school wins, strip searches could become as prevalent as "the common practice of students tattling on each other."

According to the decision of the Supreme Court, the degree of suspicion failed to match the degree of intrusion. The court apparently did not feel there was a significant danger to Savana or to others around her if she indeed had the over-the-counter drug to warrant the strip search. Without significant danger, the degree of suspicion did not match the degree of intrusion so the Supreme Court found that Savana’s Constitution Fourth Amendment Rights were violated.
Does this decision "place student safety and school order at risk by impairing the ability of school officials to effectively carry out their custodial responsibility,” or do some administrators need legal boundaries like this to protect the civil rights of individuals? Read the entire decision of our Supreme Court and then draw your own opinions and let us know what you think @ . The final vote or final opinion on this case by our Supreme Court Justices was that eight members voted that Savana's Fourth Amendment's rights had been violated by the strip search and one Supreme Court Justice voted or had the opinion that her Fourth Ammendment's Rights had not been violated by the strip search.

This young woman and her family stood up to the system. Regardless of your opinion in this case I do believe we all can agree that one person or one family in this case did make a difference. If this family had not taken a stand against this civil rights violation how many other children rights may have been violated? This case will have major impacts in the way school administrators search students. Our students really do not have many rights when they walk into the doors of our schools. Administrators have had the ability to do about whatever they wanted to do regarding searching students. Maybe it is time that some boundaries had to be been set.


Anonymous said...

Yes they do. a middle school on the south side of dekalb searches their children the last couple days of school because they have heard that children will be bringing bleach balloons to school so they check the girls purses and have the boys empty their pockets......interesting

Cerebration said...

I'm sorry - I don't understand why someone would bring a bleach balloon - could you enlighten me???

Kim Gokce said...

Bleach balloons can be used instead of eggs to cause permanent damage to car finishes. Let's pray no one is malicious enough to use these on people.

Kim Gokce said...

I don't think this is an exaggeration: The young girl and the family that saw this case through to a decision are American heroes.

Anyone who by their actions reinforces any of our delineated rights deserves profound respect.

The search was clearly not only in bad judgment but an abuse of authority.


Kim Gokce said...

This kind of thing really fires me up ... a friend just shared this presentation below yesterday about the 5th amendment.

Now, understand I am a law and order kind of guy but ... each of us must be informed about our God-given and Constitutionally protected rights. I hope to teach my own child that should they ever be in a similar situation they should not feel obligated to answer leading questions or agree to any kind of search, "reasonable" or not.

If you take 27 minutes to listen to this very experienced defense attorney and law professor, you will be a better citizen. If you make it to 7 minutes to hear about the lobster crimes, you'll be hooked.

Why You Should Never Talk to the Police

Kim Gokce said...

... just in case anyone actually watched the first lecture on the 5th and wants to hear the part 2 with the police interrogator speaking on the subject:

Why You Should Never Talk to the Police, Part 2

Ella Smith said...

I watched both of the videos and I liked the first one best. This is so true.

Kim, Thanks for sharing.

Kim, I also think I might know someone who works somewhere that we talked about the other night. (possible) email me (

Ella Smith said...

School police officers and administrators do take advantage of our young children in middle school and high school. They are scared and sometimes when they are questioned they give information that could put themselves in a dangerous situation.

One of my older son's was aware of some information about students using or selling drugs and I made him tell the administration at Lakeside when I found out. My son was afraid to go out into the local community. He had a gun put to his head. This is in the Lakeside community.

Now I do not believe in any student who may sale pot at school but on the other hand telling in this incident put my son in harms way and I learned the hard way. I sent my son out of state to school to protect him from these bullies.

I always ask my students to let me know about who sales pot or other drugs at the school I teach by writing me a note and putting it on my desk or in my mailbox at school. This way I do not know who told me and I can report what I know which protects the students from harm and also I have no idea.

Kim Gokce said...

I read the entire opinion this morning over coffee - the dissenting opinion by Justice Thomas was very interesting reading. While it seems he earnestly expresses concerns about intruding on the special authority and responsibility of public schools to protect children from drug abuse, his arguments supporting the administrator's decisions seem to go way beyond questions of constitutionality. In a nustshell, he argues that the Court is intruding on a reasonable amount of discretion he sees due to school officials.

I think his argument makes some sense in the context of the commission of crimes on school property. In this case, there is no examination of a crime committed by anyone.

Yes, it is illegal to have prescription drugs without a prescription. But in this case as documented here, there is no effort by the administrator to determine whether the prescription strength ibuprofen was legally or illegally possessed by the student.

Even if it were illegally possessed, extending the search to a strip search still remains unreasonable. At the point an administrator determines there is evidence of illegal conduct, I would expect the parents of the child to be contacted and a police report to be filed.

There seemed to be no effort made in this case to confirm whether there was any illegal conduct. If the administrator was simply seeking to enforce the school's prohibition against all prescription drugs without written permission, he should have simply proceeded with the proscribed discipline process based on the possession of the ibuprofen by the first girl.

I am the first person to argue for a clear code of conduct and uniform enforcement of discipline at our public schools. However, the establishment of a code of conduct and school rules should never be used by school officials as a license to ignore fundamental human rights.

If the conduct in question is reasonably suspected to be criminal in nature (illegal weapons possession, illegal drug possession, felony theft, criminal violence, etc.), I would prefer that school officials call law enforcement and let the police conduct an investigation.

For me, this would remove the burden from administrators of interpreting confusing constitutional rulings such as this one and it would naturally test the "reasonable-ness" of suspicion. If you couldn't convince a police officer that a search was reasonable, then you shouldn't conduct it.

Anonymous said...

Celebrate....The reason that was given to searching the students was because they had heard that students might be bringing these eggs and/or bleach filled balloons to school. They said they do it every year. It's a school by school decision it is not a dekalb county policy....the year ended with no incident but its still not a great thing to do every year especially without notifying parents in some form.

Cerebration said...

Wow - I've never heard of bleach-filled balloons. That's scary-mean. We have some really great kids in our system - but we sure have some nasty ones too.

Ells - you said, "My son was afraid to go out into the local community. He had a gun put to his head. This is in the Lakeside community." That's horrible!! What became of this?

See, a Code of Conduct is a good thing, however, we have completely uneven application of the rules and consequences in the Code. This is a training and communication issue, IMO.

Ella Smith said...

Again, I am so against drug use, but I actually learned a lesson and my husband (a lawyer) and my father-in-law (a judge) both indicated I was wrong. I actually put my child in harms way. There is always another side to the story and when you tell on drug dealers there can be consequences.

The whole story. My son was one of the last ones out of the PE locker room and someone was missing some money. It was not much. They searched several children who came out last. My son was one of them. They found a joint. He had just bought it from a kid that day at Lakeside. He still tells me it was the first joint he had ever bought and he was carrying it around in his wallet. They found his newly bought joint. I made him tell and you know about how he had a gun placed to his head in the halls at Lakeside High School and was afraid to go out into the community. He is now a big boy and he still tells me that was the first time he had ever bought a joint. Of course I did not believe him them. I do believe him know.

I should have had him tell me and them turn in the student without using his name as a teacher which would have been a better way to handle it. The school administration turned around and told the students who told them and this was the problem. The school administrators on behalf of the school system also assured me that if my son told that they would keep the information private, and would not press charges against my son.

Well the school system or school administrators did not keep it a secret, and they did press charges. My husband and father-in-law were both in shock that anyone would make a deal with one of their family members as Dr. Lewis mentioned in his email and then turned around and did the opposite of the deal that was made.

The biggest problem I had with the situation was the illegal search. How can you search for money unless it is marked money or money with your name on it. This according to my husband was an illegal search. When I did get down to the office they were also looking for I believe it was $5.00 or $10.00 and my son had $5.00 or $10.00 and I became very angry because I had just given him that money during lunch.

As you can see this was another not pleasant experience with the school system. I am not sorry my son got caught with his first joint. In fact, this was a good thing. I still do not approve of the illegal search that happen though and I do not approve of the deal that was made to me and my son and then when we gave the information which was our part of the deal the school system did not give their part of the deal. It may be that police officers are not the only ones who lie to get information as is featured in the video I watched last night that Kim shared. Many assistant principals will alway manipulate situations to get students to work with them and provide them information. We sincerely need to educate our children to keep their mouth shut in assistant principal's office's, school police officer's office's and around any police officer of any kind or administrator who is trying to get information to use against the student or another student. It would be wise to have your child always have you their parent present in a situation while giving any information to any of these individuals to protect the child.

I am a very honest and open person about my life. I have four super kids. We have had a few bumps in the road, but we made it through and I love my children and my husband very much for working through those bumps and growing to become a stronger family.

Cerebration said...

This is a really good report, Ella. I think your point is well made - that one person or family can make a difference. I think it was deplorable that these administrators searched this young lady so privately - looking for ibuprofen! So many adults in leadership positions over our children do not possess the value system nor the common sense that we often expect. Good for the Supreme Court for stepping it and legislating it!

Cerebration said...

So, Ella, do you know what became of the supplier of the marijuana? Was this person someone better 'connected' than you in the system? Was it Ron Ramsey who made a deal and then broke it?

And - yes - the videos Kim shared are really important. Teenagers don't understand how much they can be manipulated into incriminating themselves. Also, everyone should get a copy of J Tom Morgans book, "Ignorance is No Excuse" - it explains the laws to teenagers in language they will understand. Morgan has been a real gem in trying to get the word out about the serious consequences doled out nowadays to teens who just think they are simply 'partying'... only to find their lives nearly ruined.

Ella Smith said...

Cerebraton, I have no idea. It has been along time and this son is know in his 30's. I felt so horrible that I had done this to my son. I felt so horrible that I made the situation bad by trying to do the right thing.

I am sure that they were just some local kids who had something good going and my son screwed it up. Lakeside has drugs around in this community as long as Lakeside has been a school. Now I realize that telling on someone regarding a joint was not worth putting my son's life in jeopardy. I am a Health teacher and so opposed to drug use and at one time in my life I would have never said this but now I have experiences that make me feel differently.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Ella. I think the lesson you learned is invaluable for many parents here.

Ella Smith said...

I agree. I had too much trust in the system and I did not protect my son.

Some AP get just like some police officers and will do anything to catch a person breaking the rules. I should have reported the incident and kept my son out of it. I was wrong. I hurt my own child with my believes.