Based on a tip from a snitch facing disciplinary action, school officials in Safford Arizona ordered thirteen year old Savanna Redding to undergo a full strip search, underwear and all, for suspected possession of, get this, ibuprofen.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a six-to-five en banc decision, reversed(!) an earlier panel of three to hold the search a possible violation of Ms. Redding's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. Redding v. Safford Unified School District #1:
Directing a 13-year-old girl to remove her clothes, partially revealing her breasts and pelvic area, for allegedly possessing ibuprofen, an infraction that poses an imminent danger to no one, and which could be handled by keeping her in the principal's office until a parent arrived or simply sending her home, was excessively intrusive," Justice Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the majority.
The majority found flaws in the school's logic that a tip from another student justified the action.
"The self-serving statement of a cornered teenager facing significant punishment does not meet the heavy burden necessary to justify a search accurately described by the 7th Circuit as 'demeaning, dehumanizing, undignified, humiliating, terrifying, unpleasant [and] embarrassing'.
"And all this to find prescription-strength ibuprofen pills
This being the Ninth Circuit, and this being America, it would not surprise me at all if the Supreme Court were to grant certiorari and reverse this holding. While the Circuits might divide on a case as revoltingly silly as this one, if there is a general rule in American jurisprudence on the rights of children suspected of drug possession in school, it is that they have none.
After all, as the dissent points out:
Seemingly innocuous items can, in the hands of creative adolescents, present serious threats. Admittedly, ibuprofen is one of the mildest drugs children could choose to abuse. But that does not mean it is never harmful.
Indeed. Anecdotal data, as reported by millions of mothers around the world, suggests that children just like Savana Redding can drown in as little as a teaspoon full of water.
But as the government lost this time, and as the story above does not name the names of the parties responsible for this farce, we must go to the actual opinion to find them, name them, and shame them.
Safford Middle School Assistant Principal Kerry Wilson, Administrative Assistant Helen Romero, and School Nurse Peggy Schwallier, you stripped a thirteen year old girl searching for ibuprofen, a drug barely more powerful than aspirin which you can buy in any grocery store.
What the hell is wrong with you?
Update: January 16, 2009 WHOA! A prophet is without honor only on his own blog. I see that at least 4 Justices of the Supreme Court have discerned the injustice of holding school administrators responsible for the sort of conduct that got Lynndie England a dishonorable discharge. Big news from the War on Ibuprofen!
Update 2: June 25, 2009 The Supreme Court has spoken, finding the search did violate Ms. Redding's 4th Amendment rights. Unfortunately, the Court also held that the law was insufficiently clear at the time to allow Redding's assailants to know their conduct was illegal. No justice for Savana Redding, but at least they can't do it to your kids.
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