Supreme Court Rules School’s Strip Search Unconstitutional

The Supreme Court issued an 8-1 opinion today which held that Arizona public school officials violated the constitutional rights of a teenage girl when they subjected her to a strip search while acting on an anonymous tip that the girl had prescription-strength ibuprofen.

“The issue here is whether a 13-year-old student’s Fourth Amendment right was violated when she was subjected to a search of her bra and underpants by school officials acting on reasonable suspicion that she had brought forbidden prescription and over-the-counter drugs to school,” Justice David Souter wrote in Safford Unified School District v. Redding. “Because there were no reasons to suspect the drugs presented a danger or were concealed in her underwear, we hold that the search did violate the Constitution ….” The justices, however, overturned a federal appeals court decision that found the school official who performed the search could be held personally liable.

Adam Wolf, an attorney with the ACLU who argued the case before the Court, said today:

We are pleased that the Supreme Court recognized that school officials had no reason to strip search Savana Redding and that the decision to do so was unconstitutional. Today’s ruling affirms that schools are not constitutional dead zones. While we are disappointed with the Court’s conclusion that the law was not clear before today and therefore school officials were not found liable, at least other students will not have to go through what Savana experienced.

Let us not forget that famous quote from Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District:

It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.


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