A Federal Appeals Court ruled Friday that schools may not strip search student for drugs based on an unverified tip. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals says an assistant principal at and Arizona middle school violated the constitutional rights of a 13 year old by ordering her to be strip searched, because he thought she has prescription strength ibuprofen on her.

The parents of Savana Redding filed a lawsuit on behalf of their daughter, who was an eighth grade honor student at Safford Middle School in Southeastern Arizona. A San Francisco based court reinstated the lawsuit that was thrown out last year by a divided three court circuit panel.

The assistant principal had ordered Savana to go to his office after pulling her out of her math class so he could investigate after another student told him that Savana was violating school policy by having ibuprofen with her at school. School policy prohibits any student to bring medication, including over the counter medication to school. Apparently another student that had Savana’s school planner and some ibuprofen told officials at the school that Savana had given them to her when she got scared. Savana denied doing so when asked about it.

They searched her pockets and her backpack and found nothing so the assistant principal, Kerry Wilson, ordered his assistant and the school nurse to strip search the girl. They made her remove her clothing which they searched. When they found nothing she was left wearing only her bra and panties so they ordered her to lower her bra exposing her breasts to them and then to shake out the crotch of her panties.

Now I can imagine how humiliating this was for a 13 year old child. I am an adult woman and I would be embarrassed and humiliated if this happened to me now even. She hid her face so they couldn’t see she was about to cry and then did as she was told by pulling out her panties revealing her pelvic area. Still no ibuprofen was found on this girl.

Now I have to agree with Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw when she wrote that there could have been other ways of handling this like having her sit in the principal’s office until the parents could come or even to just send the girl home. Putting this child through such humiliation was totally uncalled for. And all this was just to see if she had ibuprofen on her, a harmless medication that most teenage girls take for menstrual cramps.

The courts rules that Kerry Wilson was liable for monetary damages but his assistant and the nurse was only following orders so they are not to be held liable.

Azstarnet.com quotes Savana as saying, “I took my case to court because I wanted to make sure that school officials wouldn’t be able to violate anyone else’s rights like this again. This is one of the most traumatic experiences of my life and I am relieved that a court has finally recognized that the Constitution protects students from being strip-searched in schools on the basis of unreliable rumors.”

Jan Barrett

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