No one should be forced to strip and then searched in middle school

24 03 2009

I just read an article in the New York Times about how Savana Redding, now 19 years old, was forced to strip six years ago when she was a 13 year old eighth grader at a school in Safford, AZ. Her case has reached the Supreme Court and will be heard on April 21st. Six years ago, assistant principal Kerry Wilson suspected Redding of possessing prescription-strength ibuprofen pills with her in school and ordered her to be searched, enforcing the school’s anti-drug policies.

Redding was never asked if she had pills on her prior to being searched. Imagine that – waking up and going to school, thinking it’d be any regular day, but instead being forced to strip and then searched by the school nurse and the secretary without being asked or told anything. This is degrading and dehumanizing. Imagine how traumatized she must’ve felt!

Redding was an honors student and did not have any pills with her. (She says that a “friend” who was found with ibuprofen pills blamed her for them instead.) However, she was forced to strip and was searched methodically and intrusively by two female school staff members, Peggy Schwallier, the school nurse, and Helen Romero, a secretary. She says that it was humiliating and once she stripped to her underwear, “they asked me to pull out my bra and move it from side to side. They made me open my legs and pull out my underwear.”

WTF?!!! Did they think she’d be hiding drugs in her bra or in her underwear? She was also 13, a minor, at the time! Was it really necessary to subject her to this violation of rights and dignity? Clearly these school officials violated Redding’s constitutional rights and should be held accountable for it.

In a sworn statement, Schwallier said that Redding “’never appeared apprehensive or embarrassed.’” Meanwhile Redding contends that during the search, she kept her head down so the women wouldn’t be able to see that she was going to cry. She didn’t want to be further humiliated by being caught crying in front of the women.

Okay Schwallier, even if Redding “‘never appeared apprehensive or embarrassed'”, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that she wasn’t completely fine with it! People can appear calm and collected on the outside but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t “apprehensive” or “embarrassed.” It just means that they look very poised. Have some sensitivity! Anyone who was being forcefully searched after having to strip without being questioned or offered an explanation would feel uncomfortable.

Furthermore, subsequent to the search Redding stopped going to school and studied at home because she was so humiliated. She eventually transferred to another school. “The experience left her wary, nervous and distrustful, she said, and she developed stomach ulcers.”

In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled that school officials had violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches. The article says:

Writing for the majority, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw said, “It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights.” “More than that,” Judge Wardlaw added, “it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity.”

In a friend-of-the-court brief in Ms. Redding’s case, the federal government said the search of her was unreasonable because officials had no reason to believe she was “carrying the pills inside her undergarments, attached to her nude body, or anywhere else that a strip search would reveal.”

Yes – Exactly! A nude search of a 13 year old girl is a violation of constitutional rights and human dignity! It’s not rocket science! It goes on to later say:

Adam B. Wolf, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Ms. Redding, said her experience was “the worst nightmare for any parent.”

“When you send your child off to school every day, you expect them to be in math class or in the choir,” Mr. Wolf said. “You never imagine their being forced to strip naked and expose their genitalia and breasts to their school officials.”

The fact that the two school officials who searched her were females does not make it any better. It’s still a humiliating experience that was completely uncalled for. And Mr. Wolf is right, 13 year olds don’t go to school expecting to be forced to strip naked and searched! No one goes to school expecting to be forced to strip naked and then searched!


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2 responses

1 06 2009
Abyssal

Surprised no one’s commented. I guess it’s a bit late, but I just wanted to say that I completely agree that she was violated, and I’m glad you’ve helped to bring attention to the case. Keep up the good work.

1 06 2009
feminist2

Thank you! I’m glad that you read our blog and enjoyed that entry.

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