We've written previously about the horrifying case of Savana Redding, the thirteen year old girl who was strip-searched by officials of the Safford Arizona Unified School District. Redding's teachers were searching for ibuprofen, under a "zero tolerance" no-drugs policy.
They found nothing.
The earlier Redding post has been among our most popular, not because it was well-written or because it provides a good analysis of the legal issues (it doesn't), but because it was written in a tone of anger and outrage that reflects the feelings many Americans had on reading that school officials felt they could strip-search a teenaged girl as part of their routine duties.
As predicted, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court has just issued its opinion, which we've uploaded here: safford-v-redding
Short holding: the strip search did violate the Fourth Amendment (which surprises me – I thought they'd hold it constitutionally permissible), but because Redding's assailants, Kerry Wilson, Helen Romero, and Peggy Schwallier, didn't know under clearly established law at the time that their conduct was illegal, they have qualified immunity and will not face damages.
I maintain that regardless of what Wilson, Romero, and Schwallier knew of the law, common decency should have guided them to the right action, but that's between them and their consciences now, rather than a matter for a court.
Ms. Redding gets nothing but vindication, which she richly deserves. The brighter side is that in the future, school officials who decide to strip search children looking for trivial contraband such as ibuprofen cannot say that they didn't know their conduct was illegal. From now on, such child abusers will have to explain themselves, before a jury of parents and fellow citizens.
Of course, for everyone else the maxim that ignorance of the law is no excuse stands, but in this case Redding's assailants get a pass.
Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White
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