Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Redding v. Safford

So the US Supreme Court today is hearing a case as to whether it is acceptable for a school official to perform a strip search on a 13-year-old girl to search for ibuprofen pills (Advil) based on an uncorroborated tip from the girl who, it turns out, was actually responsible for bringing the unpermitted pills to school. Justice Kim Wardlaw of the 9th Circuit (en banc) wrote "of course not." Even the dissenters did not agree the search was reasonable: they wanted to announce henceforth that such a search would be considered unconstitutional, but that the school officials should not be held liable for breaking a "clearly established" rule. In this posture, it goes to the US Sct. (It's kind of crazy - do you need a Supreme Court case before you realize it's not okay to strip search a 13-year-old girl to find something that is neither dangerous nor illegal?).

The initial press reports are not heartening. Apparently Justice Breyer made comments about changing for gym class and getting stuff put in his clothes. Har har har. This is why we need more women on the Supreme Court.

The arguments seemed to be about whether a strip search is justified without evidence that something is in the underwear. As if a tip "she's got advil in her bra" would justify this outrage more than just "she's got advil [somewere] on her." Nobody on the Court seemed particularly bothered that the search was for something as innocuous as ibuprofen. This is because the conservatives do not want to undermine 'zero tolerance' policies that prohibit all drugs on campus, even those that 13-year-old girls sometimes take for headaches or cramps. And of course, their children are sent to private schools where such outrages never happen, so they need not confront the reality of watching a granddaughter humiliated like this. "Zero tolerance," it has been properly said, is as stupid as it sounds. It should be obvious that before a state official has a constitutional right to consider an intrusive search of a minor child, the object of the search must be something that poses actual danger to someone.

Justice Breyer: do you know why 13 year old girls get cramps, and why they might not want some principal poking around in their private business? Thank heavens that in seven states, including CA, a strip search is per se forbidden by schools (Cal. Educ. Code s. 49050.). (A search for dangerous substances must be by police under normal rules of law). FYI, the proper response to someone trying to peer into your 13-year-old daughter's underwear begins with a hockey stick to the face. You thought Kelo v. New London pissed people off? Wait until this comes down wrong.


Pombat said...

Huh? There are people out there who will strip search *children* at *school*?!!!

In my brief time as a teacher, the things that were held up as number one priorities were that we were in loco parentis, i.e. acting as (good) parents whilst the child was in our care, and that we were *not* allowed to touch kids (not even to comfort ones who came to us with problems, which really sucked - can't risk getting sued for inappropriate contact though, since you're tried in the media first and it destroys your life even if you're subsequently found innocent).

USwest said...

There is also a big difference between gym room pranks by your peers and being forced to take your clothes off by someone in a position of authority in front of some else in a position of authority.

In fact, when I was in highschool, no one ever took a shower after gym. No one was forced to. Getting naked in front of class mates?

My sisters, however, who were in high school in the 1960's talk about being forced to do "check ups" at school and to remove clothing for such things and being forced to shower after gym. I thought we got more enlightened about these things later on!

In any other setting this would be considered a sex crime.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I recall being asked to shower in groups in high school. Boys at that age already know to look resolutely at the floor or at soap, just as we do when at a phalanx of urinals. It was considered somewhat girlish (hence: unthinkably awful) for teenage boy to be afraid to shower after gym class. We, however, were not required to do so. I suspect that in the 1950s and 1960s, when the male justices were in school, they were required to shower in groups like this. I think some may have gone to all-boys schools (which is another issue).

If I found out someone at school did this to my daughter, I would immediately file accusations of sexual molestation against that person. You took off my daughter's clothes and she came home crying, what else am I to think? Those charges can really stick and would be a deterrent to the next person.

USwest said...

Girls are little different than boys, especially in the early teen years. The embarrassment over your body changing and the like are serious. It is a critical period for a young women, as has been point out above.

I agree with LTG. I'd bring charges.

Pombat said...

As far as showering at school went - we had to shower after swimming classes, but were allowed to leave our swimsuits on whilst doing so (they were happy provided we got most of the chlorine off), leaving the option of changing with a towel wrapped around yourself and no exposure to anyone. Importantly, our teachers did not watch us shower - they stood a couple of feet down the corridor, within earshot of problems (including being able to distinguish voices and stop any teasing), but not actually witnessing us. Ditto in the changeroom - we knew they were nearby, and could probably hear us, but they were not watching. After all other sports lessons, showers were available, but the choice was ours (most people skipped them after gym class, and were straight in there after muddy lacrosse matches for example).

So, my shower experience at school - surrounded by my peers with no compulsory exposure to anyone at all - differs drastically from a teacher - person in position of authority who you're meant to be able to trust - strip searching me. I think I'd bring charges too, as someone said, in any other context, this would be clearly seen as a sex crime.

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