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April 20th, 2009
09:19 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Middle School Strip Search

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether school officials were right to strip-search a student over ibuprofen.

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether school officials were right to strip-search a student over ibuprofen.

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

In the eighth grade, Savana Redding had to strip to her bra and underwear in the school nurses' office. She was told to pull on her bra to expose her breasts and the same with her underwear to expose her pelvic area. What were looking for? Prescription-strength ibuprofen. None were found.

That was more than six years ago. Savana is now 19, but she's never forgot what happened to her in 2003.

Tomorrow the U.S. Supreme Court will here arguments in the Arizona case. A federal appeals court found the search "traumatizing" and illegal.

Though, in its appeal to the high court, the Safford Unified School District said restrictions on conducting 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".

Do you think the school went too far or made the right decision?
Share your thoughts below.

We'll have more on this case tonight on AC360° and tonight's other headlines.
Join us at 10pm ET.


Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Joe

    Schools have no right to do this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 21, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  2. Rob

    I think the offensive part is the fact that a 13 yr old had to be subjected to exposing her body against her will. I just want to point out how different the argument would be if the search were instead for anthrax or a more serious narcotic. This may seem extreme and I'm not suggesting a 13 yr old necessarily has the capacity to bring such things into a school but I certainly wouldn't doubt the resourcefulness of a deranged parent to use their child to harm others. With this in mind do middle school level screenings still seem so unreasonable?

    April 21, 2009 at 11:24 am |
  3. Elaine

    I can think of a few investment bankers, senators, and real estate agents that deserve a humiliating strip search by the American public... but no eighth graders comes to mind.

    April 21, 2009 at 10:25 am |
  4. Jennifer

    Thank you, Maureen, for blogging on this topic.

    I will agree with the majority of posters here. First, there was no probable cause. The girl was accused of providing the substance, not of possessing it, nor of concealing it. Nor was the accuser a reliable withness, and the accused was a very improbable fall guy.

    Second, the substance in question was Ibuprofen. A prescription-strength dose, yes; which if she had possessed, she had a prescription for. Even if she was not in legal possession of the drug, it is a commonly used analgesic. Ibuprofen is not an addictive substance.

    Third, the child in question had a legal right to representation during questioning. That questioning includes a search of her person. Since the accused was a child, she had the right to wait for her legal guardian to be present in addition to her legal representative before the commencement of any search or questioning.

    I believe the issues before the Supreme Court in this case are the level of rights a child is guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, whether a school is a law-enforcement body and its staff have authority to enforce laws, and whether children have the right to adult or legal representation while at school.

    Of course, I'm no barrister, so my understanding of the issues is tenuous.

    April 21, 2009 at 9:38 am |
  5. Mark

    I seem to remember that years ago we told children they could go a community leader for help....not so much now...we don't trust them any more it seems. We also want to believe that every parent is as involved with thier kids as we are with our own...not so much all the time. I have seen parents express their disappointment at being called from work to a school when the child was actually sick, much less for a strip search.

    I think this may have been overkill IF they knew they were looking for ibuprofen. But the school officials may have been responding to a rumor that she had some sort of illegal drug stashed away. This student may have been running with the "wrong crowd" and helped to fuel the situation...we just do not know all the facts that the school officials had to deal with at THAT moment.

    I can bet that if she had been "holding" something illegal or dangerous and had not been strip searched with a result that someone was later injured or killed....the outrage would have been demanding strip searches. It is sometimes a tough line to walk.

    April 21, 2009 at 8:49 am |
  6. Emma

    May I tell you something.
    In lived in the USA from 92-98 and the first time I went to the doctor, I had to undress and they gave me something (to this day, I don't know the name of that thing) to cover my nudity and of course – being French and going topless on the beaches – I did not even know how to put that thing. Free your mind ...

    April 21, 2009 at 8:30 am |
  7. Cynthia

    As a middle school teacher I know that kids this age are capable of anything. But this incident went too far. A student does not leave his or her rights at the schoolyard gate.

    April 21, 2009 at 7:33 am |
  8. EWilliam

    Strip searching this young girl is wrong...just plain wrong. I can certainly see how she can be traumatized.
    I hope the US Supreme Court agrees and the school official get nailed.
    At the very least FIRED.

    April 21, 2009 at 7:31 am |
  9. AJ

    A lot of people here are asking why she waited so long. What people don't understand is that it takes YEARS to get your case to the Supreme Court. You have to go through so many levels of appeals. I think she and her mother must have followed the lawsuit immediately following the incident, and it's just now getting to the Supreme Court. There are very few cases in which the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction, and this is a case of appellate jurisdiction.

    Anyway, speaking as a high school student, I have to say that the school really overstepped their bounds. They took it way too far. You have to give the school permission to spank your kids (at least in places where spanking is still allowed), but you don't have to give permission for some random staff member (nurse or not) to see your child naked?

    This case is absolutely disgusting, and it highlights an issue that's been around for too long: students don't have enough rights. Period.

    April 21, 2009 at 6:52 am |
  10. Larry

    Our schools are in one of the toughest times in our history. Knives, guns and drugs are just as common as pencils notebooks and backpacks. Our teachers and administrators are slowly being turned into prison guards instead of lights of knowledge and learning. Their job is tough and I don't envy their choice of career. Although I sympathize with the potential dire situation that the administration feared, I cannot ever condone untrained adults performing any type of law enforcement procedure. Strip searches can't even be performed on a criminal caught in the act, without first reading them their Miranda rights!! But when we don't teach our children at home, and our schools are failing to teach them at school, eventually we will all lose our rights and freedoms because we will not know what they are or should be. We live in interesting times.

    April 21, 2009 at 6:44 am |
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