Safford Unified School v. Redding - US Supreme Court Strip Search Case

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by mkrishnan, Apr 21, 2009.

  1. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #1
    Any thoughts on this case? I haven't seen it discussed here in PRSI yet.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-scotus-stripsearch22-2009apr22,0,6016774.story

    Ms. Redding was featured on NPR this morning also.

    The NYT ran an editorial a few days ago advocating on the side of freedom from illegal search and seizure, although they used the humiliation argument as one of their core arguments.

    I don't really have strongly held views on this at the moment. I am quite sure that, when I was that age, I would have been quite offended by this kind of treatment, and Ms. Redding in any event seems to have been wrongly accused (although it's less clear that she was wrongly accused in bad faith).

    I wonder a few things, specifically...
    - Strip searches are in general humiliating. I think people agree with this. They are also standard practice in other settings. Are they differentially humiliating to adolescents? Is there evidence they are particularly likely to cause psychological trauma? If not, to what extent is their humiliating character relevant?

    - What is the body of evidence that strip searches actually reduce the rate of drug availability or consumption in schools?

    - What are appropriate checks and balances to warrant-less search and seizure by schools?
     
  2. chrmjenkins macrumors 603

    chrmjenkins

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    #2
    This is one of the key points. I think that, at her age, a child is under the belief that no one besides her parents and a doctor, who has been given permission, should be looking at her nude. As such, she's going to feel violated. I'm not inclined to disagree with teaching that to children.

    Moreover, at the very least the girl's parents should have been contacted before they did the search. Since they are legally responsible for her, they could have acted on her behalf in a way that would have possibly avoided the need for a search.
     
  3. Macaddicttt macrumors 6502a

    Macaddicttt

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    #3
    In my opinion this case shows the ridiculousness of zero-tolerance policies. School administrators want remove thinking from the equation. They want: Drugs involved, use all measures to stop it.

    No one in this case stopped to think, "This is just ibuprofen, it's not a big deal. We didn't find any in her backpack, so let's let it go." If she were suspected of carrying heroine, then the steps they took would be more appropriate. Everyone was just acting on autopilot. No one wants to be the principle that didn't find the drugs or the guns or whatever, and now we have the ridiculous spectacle of treating all students like potential criminals.
     
  4. mkrishnan thread starter Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #4
    I think that is quite possibly true, although I don't really know of any data supporting that viewpoint. I think the idea of some kind of oversight for the search is not a bad idea -- either parental involvement or perhaps requiring the police to be involved for strip searches. I think in balance, there is the contrary problem that, if strip searches are categorically disallowed, it seems almost inevitable that everyone who carries drugs into a school will start carrying them in their underwear. And again, the evidence that children are traumatized by searches, as far as I know, is all anecdotal and doesn't come from disinterested parties (i.e. it seems to consist almost entirely, from what I've seen, of complaints by children and families who claim they were wrongly searched and thus were traumatized).

    I have mixed feelings on the whole zero tolerance issue. On the one hand, I think that it does have a false positive rate -- that kids are getting escalated for innocuous situations. On the other hand, I think that policies towards drugs sometimes should be more aggressive inside the school, justified by the risk level early addiction poses. For those legitimately carrying medications, I think it's one of those things, like bicycle helmets, seatbelts, and wearing latex gloves when handling other people's bodily substances, to which we can easily and probably should just adapt.

    I don't personally find the "this is just ibuprofen" argument compelling, on the other hand. Ibuprofen is a pretty weak medication, but it does seem like what information is out there suggests that trafficking in schools is pretty complicated and consists of some relatively benign things alongside more concerning drugs. To me, that in itself isn't a strong argument, although in balance with a few other things -- the credibility of the source (the other girl), this girl's positive record, etc -- it altogether isn't so strong.

    On the anti-search side, one thing I found less compelling was the argument on the school's behalf that a strong academic record / honors placement and no history of reported or acted upon behavior problems or other reasons to suspect drug use or trafficking was evidence only that she hadn't been caught and could not be evidence that she was unlikely to be involved. That to me seems contrary to general practice outside schools.
     
  5. JLatte macrumors 6502

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    #5
    This reminds me of my old high school. The thong incident:

    http://www.10news.com/news/1470005/detail.html

    The assistant principal was checking their skirts before they entered the dance floor.

    Anyways, back to the original topic: I don't think she should have been strip searched. If she had been previously an offender at the school for illicit drugs (non ibuprofin) but more illegal substance, than I could understand. If she had no previous record of anything, simply asking her for her pills should have been enough.
     
  6. mkrishnan thread starter Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #6
    ^^ So, in spite of your off-topic story about a clear violation of common sense... you are generally in support of the idea of strip searches in schools? The impact of this case, I think, will really really be whether they can be allowed under any circumstances -- whether an appropriate protocol exists for when they are okay -- than whether the specific circumstances involved were okay.
     
  7. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #7
    If she's carrying illegal drugs, then perhaps a strip search may be more appropriate, but it still needs to be performed by a police officer, not a school nurse.
     
  8. mkrishnan thread starter Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #8
    One thing I was wondering about this -- I also tend to think that body searches should be performed by professionals who meet multiple criteria...

    - Are professionally trained
    - Are also trained in not abusing the measure
    - Are not people with whom the person is in general daily work / school / life contact (e.g. it's okay for my company to make me take a drug test, and they might even have the doctor or their assistant watch me urinate for the sample, but it's not reasonable that my boss or the department admin be standing there watching me urinate).

    But, here I'm a little ignorant on the law. The Court gives schools the right to do warrantless search and seizures in a number of instances. How is the warrantless basis of the action altered if police are involved? Do police already have the right to do a warrantless search and seizure on a student at the direction of a school, or once the police are involved, does the situation automatically require a warrant?
     
  9. Sdashiki macrumors 68040

    Sdashiki

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    #9
    Reasonable suspicion.

    Probable cause.

    Why do THESE aspects of being a US citizen just STOP at the classroom door?

    There is NO excuse for ever searching a students belongings, be it a backpack or body. A locker, as the supreme court held, is school property and a student has no reasonable right to privacy there.

    But your own body, and the clothes on it!? No, thats an egregious violation of private rights.

    Since when does the enforcement of law not work inside a school as it does outside? Get some evidence that would constitute a warrant (one could argue you wouldnt NEED one for a school search, but still would need to have reasonable suspicion that would get one otherwise), and then proceed.

    SCHOOL IS NOT PRISON NO MATTER WHAT THE MEDIA TELLS YOU. sheesh.
     
  10. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #10
    Well, yes, reasonable suspicion is a given. If some girl tells the principal "I just bought some cocaine from so-and-so!" and after searching the so-and-so's locker, they find some, then I think it's reasonable to search them. But claiming to have gotten some Advil from someone is not reasonable
     
  11. maestro55 macrumors 68030

    maestro55

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    #11
    Oh yeah, it is bad enough this girl was being wrongfully accused, just imagine what other kids said to her after the incident. Junior High students can be very cruel. Imagine the rumors that are going around the school. The fact of the matter is the school was wrong in the first place to falsely accuse this girl and then to over step their boundaries and do a warrant less strip search.

    And frankly, to me it doesn't matter. Without probable cause in order to get a warrant there should have been no strip searching going on. I don't care if strip searching stops all drug use in schools, the 4th amendment must be upheld (and please, anyone that wants to chime in saying the constitution doesn't matter in public schools, give me a freaking break).
     
  12. Sdashiki macrumors 68040

    Sdashiki

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    #12
    Let me put this forth because its a great tell-tale about the condition of public schools today vs 20yrs ago.

    In middle school (6th grade), during math class I was up at the teacher's desk asking a question. Upon returning to my desk I see our resident class "lying-fat-b*tch" (same 40 people K-8 basically so everyone had there spot and stereotype, i was no different) going through my bookbag like its nobody's business. i always had food/candy so maybe she was hungry, I dont know.

    So, without even a second though I grab my pencil off the desk and stab her in the arm with it. No broken skin, no broken pencil, just a nice jab. I didnt want to hurt her, just make her go away. Maybe a thinner arm would have buckled from my awesome middle-school-force-guns, but not this one. Anyway, she says "ow" and leaves my stuff alone.

    Next day, principal asks me in. Says he saw the "wound" and said you didn't break the skin and she wasn't hurt...but suspends me for ONE DAY. Came back afterwards, she was none worse for the wear, and still remained the same throughout our schooling regardless of the "incident", which goes to show how little it actually mattered on the school yard.


    Same scenario today, id be expelled no questions asked, no past history allowed into evidence, just plain and simple zero-tolerance.
     
  13. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #13
    Where the hell did you go to school? Thats simply not the case in todays school systems.
     
  14. No1451 macrumors 6502

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    #14
    The problem here is as stated:

    1) These searches, if deemed necessary should be conducted by proper authorities. I do not believe that a school has any place in stopping drugs, that is for the police, and if you have reasonable belief that a student DOES have drugs, they and not the administration should handle it.

    2) It was bloody advil! When you're dealing with kids and you hear they have advil you should not just assume that they are somehow getting high off it, that is just such a giant leap of stupidity that I cannot properly express it.
     
  15. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

    Zombie Acorn

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    #15
    If I were the parent I would be going to prison for life. The most the school should be able to do is call a) the police or b) parents and most likely the should do both.
     
  16. Thanatoast macrumors 6502a

    Thanatoast

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    #16
    +1

    I cannot state it more succinctly than it is stated above. Frankly, I'm amazed at the ambivalence displayed so far. If it were my child there would have been arrests, either mine or theirs - no in between.

    The War on Drugs has officially jumped the shark when we're strip-seaching 13-year-olds at school over suspicions of carrying Advil.
     
  17. remmy macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    Surely the best way to limit drugs in a school is better educate the students there with information that is accurate and true thus removing more of the demand.
     
  18. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #18
    Agreed. The "downside" is that you will probably see marijuana use increase a bit if they are pulling all the BS propaganda out of the curriculum.
     
  19. mkrishnan thread starter Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #19
    This is clearly out of the bounds of US law... as I understand it, the school official can't be subject to any kind of legal repercussion unless a "clearly established" rule was violated, which was clearly not the case here -- at best, the case here is that a rule should be established against this kind of search. There certainly isn't one now, which would allow for even civil, let alone criminal proceedings.

    I'm not saying it shouldn't be that way. But it isn't. If you were the parent you would be completely powerless to accomplish anything you stated above.
     
  20. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #20
    I probably would have been arrested in this instance then. The administration would have NO cooperation from me, at all. I'd be very interested to know how they would react to a simple "no you arent going to strip search me". A single touch of my body and I'd go ******* knowing what they were trying to do.
     

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