I’ve been following this story for awhile, way before SCOTUS decided to hear it, thanks to the awesomeness that is Fark.com:
Long story short, let me sum this up for you. A student in a middle school tells a school official that one of her classmates has prescription-strength ibuprofen with her at school. School officials pull this girl, a 13 year-old honor student with no history of disciplinary issues, out of class, search her backpack, and when they don’t find the aforementioned contraband, decide a strip search would be prudent. The male administrator gets the female school nurse (because that makes it all better, right?!) and they make the girl strip down to her bra and underwear. They never do find the ibuprofen.
Girl is understandably traumatized and embarrassed. Parents are understandably freaked the hell out. The case has been tried and appealed, and appealed, and the Supreme Court will be hearing it tomorrow.
I truly honestly totally completely hope that the Supreme Court upholds the decision of the federal appeals court that found the search was illegal. Now, I don’t have any problem with school officials having a little more authority than normal over the students under their care. A school is unarguably a challenging environment to keep safe and school officials do need to be able to utilize a bit of discretion. Go ahead, search lockers, do random drug tests. Do not, however, EVER, based solely on the word of another student, march my daughter (or son, for that matter) into your office and insist she strip down to her undergarments in the name of protecting the student body from the evils of pain management. I’m not generally a fan of litigation, but you can rest assured I would sue your pants off, and then once I had your pants, I would punch you so hard your children would be born dizzy.
That’s not to say I don’t think the administrators could have taken action. They could have asked some questions, maybe tried to verify the accusation from the other student. Once they did a reasonable search of the girl’s personal belongings they could have sent her home for the day with the admonition that she should never ever bring prescription or over-the-counter drugs to school. I remember how I was as a 13 year-old kinda-nerdy, never-been-in-trouble honors student, and that close brush with getting in trouble would have freaked me about and been all I needed to never do it again (or at least be way better about not getting caught).
You, as school administrators, may have some extended protections in the name of the safety of the student population at-large, but your students do not check the entirety of their civil liberties when they walk on your campus, a point very famously made by SCOTUS in 1969. And in this case, I really really hope the Supreme Court hands the Safford Unified School District in question its ass on a platter. Cold, with a side of kick-in-the-head.