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Teen's School Strip Search Unconstitutional

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, June 25, 2009 4:39 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Teen Safety, Drug Use, Constitution, Supreme Court, Unreasonable Search, Unconstitutional, Prescription Drugs, Fourth Amendment

The strip search by school officials of an Arizona 13-year-old was unconstitutional, the high court ruled today.  
Savana Redding

School Officials Not Liable



IMAGE SOURCE: Savana Redding/ New York Times Web site 


The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with a 13-year-old girl who was strip searched in school against her will.  

Savana Redding’s constitutional rights were violated, despite the school’s zero tolerance policy toward drugs, the high court ruled in an 8-1 decision.   The justices stopped short of ruling the school shared in any liability.

The ruling takes another step toward defining student rights and school authority in searching out banned contraband such as drugs, alcohol or weapons.


Six years ago, Savana Redding was summoned from her Stafford, Arizona middle school classroom to the principal’s office. Someone had accused the teen of carrying prescription strength ibuprofen.  The honor student thought she was being called to the office for accolades. Instead, she was ordered to strip down to her underwear as the school nurse and secretary watched.    

“They just looked at me and said, 'well, now you have to pull out your bra and shake it and your underwear as well," she said to ABC News, her eyes filling with tears. "I really wanted to cry."

Writing for the majority, Justice David Souter wrote “Savana’s subjective expectation of privacy against such a search is inherent in her account of it as embarrassing, frightening, and humiliating…Here, the content of the suspicion failed to match the degree of intrusion.”

The search was not justified because Savana was not accused of carrying a dangerous weapon, the Court decided.   She had no history of disciplinary issues or drug use.

Dissenting was Justice Clarence Thomas, who argued the search was not in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which says “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated….” 

Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought that monetary damages should be awarded and found officials personally liable. 

The only woman on the court, Ginsburg said she doubted her male colleagues could appreciate the embarrassment of a young girl standing before school officials, a situation she called “abusive”. 

The girl’s mother was never notified. Afterward, students whispered behind her back and thought she was a troublemaker who used pills.  Redding changed schools and then later dropped out of school entirely. 

The Supreme Court heard the argument in April. If it had signed off on strip searches predictions were that you’d see more of them in the future. 

Savana says guidelines are needed on just how far school officials can go. 

"They keep saying that they did it to keep everyone safe. What about me?" Savana said to ABC News. "They didn't keep me safe by doing that.”  #


Posted by James Cool
Thursday, June 25, 2009 7:28 PM EST

This is why I maintain an abiding interest in criminal defense work. Our criminal justice system is replete with examples of people's fundamental rights being blatantly discarded in furtherance of the creation of a police state and the "war on drugs."

I am always surprised more plaintiff's attorneys do not jump on this bandwagon. This young girl is as much a victim as one who was hit by a drunk driver. We don't like to think that those in power, be they principals or police, are evil. But many of them are fundamentally misguided individuals--zealots willing to do anything in pursuit of their warped agenda. What happened to Savana ought to shock the conscience of any law-abiding and constition-reading American. But for many, it barely registers.

Posted by James Cool
Thursday, June 25, 2009 7:31 PM EST

By the way, the true absurdity of Savana's tale is that they were not searching for a knife, gun, or weapon. They weren't even searching for a real drug like acid, cocaine or, dare I say it, marijuana.

They made a young girl stirp naked, humiliated her and eviscerated the constitution in order to find IBUPROFEN! How in the world they managed to recast this as keeping the other children safe is miles beyond me. It's ibuprofen for god's sake. Was there a genuine concern that some kid was going to get righteously....numbed?

Give me a break.

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