Case to decide public school’s authority to search minor

U-Wire and U-Wire

The Supreme Court will hear a case next month that may well set a precedent for privacy cases for years to come. The case concerns a girl who was strip-searched by public school officials at the age of 13. Sandra Redding attended middle school in Safford, Ariz., and was accused by another student of having prescription ibuprofen. The assistant principal ordered a teacher and a nurse to strip search Redding, without asking questions or seeking advice or help from lawyers, police or Redding’s parents. The school argues it was well within its rights to order the search, despite the fact that Redding had no prior disciplinary record and the officials had only the word of another student to go on. The school district even seems to harbor animosity over her disciplinary record. A brief by the school states, ‘Her assertion should not be misread to infer that she never broke school rules, only that she was never caught.’ The court’s decision in this case will be important in the battle of rights for minors, especially for those attending public school. Previous court cases have set precedents that strip public school attendees of nearly all personal liberties ‘shy;- lockers and book bags can be searched without reasonable cause and students can be subjectively punished. Students have no right to freedom of speech while on school property. In many schools, students are treated no better than any other property. But this violation of Redding’s most personal space has to be one of the worst abuses of power ever seen in the American school system. After officials made Redding strip to her underclothes, they asked her to ‘Pull out my bra and move it from side to side,’ and ‘Open my legs and pull out my underwear.’ A brief by the federal government stated the search was unwarranted because there was no reason to believe Redding was ‘carrying the pills inside her undergarments, attached to her nude body, or anywhere else that a strip search would reveal.’ However, to imply that the search would have been OK had there been reasonable suspicion is dangerous. Teachers and administrators are not trained on how to strip-search students or how to recognize reasonable belief. Such matters are best left to the police. Redding is now 19, but she feels the effects of the search every day. She was humiliated and refused to return to school. She developed stomach ulcers and becomes emotional when she talks about the incident. The case will provide an important test for conservative justices who screech about violations of their personal liberties over the Second Amendment. If they are truly serious about protecting everybody’s personal liberties and limiting the role of government, the court will come down squarely against the school district. Any justice to side with the school will be showing his or her stripe of cowardice and hypocrisy.