Strip Search of 13-Year-Old for Ibuprofen Ruled Unconstitutional

If you have a problem with school officials strip searching 13-year-olds for Advil — or if you care about the government’s standards for informant use and invasive searches — you can take relief in yesterday's ruling by a full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which ruled 6-5 that students cannot be strip-searched based on the uncorroborated word of another student who is facing disciplinary punishment.

“A reasonable school official, seeking to protect the students in his charge, does not subject a thirteen-year-old girl to a traumatic search to "protect" her from the danger of Advil,” the federal appellate court wrotein today’s opinion. “We reject Safford’s effort to lump together these run-of-the-mill anti-inflammatory pills with the evocative term‘prescription drugs,’ in a knowing effort to shield an imprudentstrip search of a young girl behind a larger war against drugs.”

“It does not take a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old girl is an invasion of constitutional rights. More than that: it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity,” the court continued.

In addition to finding the strip search unconstitutional, the court held that the school official who ordered the strip search, Vice Principal Kerry Wilson, is financially liable in the case and cannot claim qualified immunity.

The ACLU co-represented the student, SavanaRedding, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which decided to reconsider the case after a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that the strip-search was legal.

For a case like this, it’s hard to understand how the unconstitutionality of strip searching Redding could even be up for debate. Consider how flimsy the government’s case was:

  • No physical evidence suggested that Redding — an honor roll student with no history of substance use or abuse — might be in possession of ibuprofen pills or that she was concealing them in her undergarments.
  • The strip search was undertaken based solely on the uncorroborated claims of a classmate facing punishment, who was caught with prescription strength ibuprofen — the equivalent of two over-the-counter pills of Advil. (And why on earth might a teenaged girl have ibuprofen?)
  • No attempt was made to corroborate the classmate’s accusations among other students or teachers.
  • The classmate had not claimed that Redding currently possessed any pills, nor had the classmate given any indication as to where they might be concealed.
  • No attempt was made to contact Redding’s parents prior to conducting the strip search.

If you want to get some background information on the abundance of scientific literature describing the serious psychological repercussions of being strip-searched at age 13, you should check out the briefs of support that were also filed by the NationalAssociation of Social Workers and the RutherfordInstitute.

“The strip search was the most humiliating experience I have ever had,” said Redding in a sworn affidavit following the incident. “I held my head down so that they could not see that I was about to cry.”

As Reason’s Jacob Sullum insightfully observed in his article on the case, “The School Crotch Inspector”:

"There are two kinds of people in the world: the kind who think it's perfectly reasonable to strip-search a 13-year-old girl suspected of bringing ibuprofen to school, and the kind who think those people should be kept as far away from children as possible … Sometimes it's hard to tell the differencebetween drug warriors and child molesters.”

The same safeguardsand regulations on informant use that we have been advocating in the context of criminal drug proceedings apply even more so to the context of school, where young people are particularly vulnerable to unsubstantiated rumors and finger-pointing by vindictive peers.

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Jason

Who exactly where the 5 that voted yay on this? These individuals need to be put on trial themselves to make sure they are indeed fit for office, or their resignations demanded immediately.

anonymous

"“There are two kinds of people in the world: the kind who think it’s perfectly reasonable to strip-search a 13-year-old girl suspected of bringing ibuprofen to school, and the kind who think those people should be kept as far away from children as possible … Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between drug warriors and child molesters.”"

Apparently at least five of the justices on the 9th circuit court of appeals are the kind to keep away from children...

lane

O
M
G
!

I rekanize how spun up you are on this topic, and there should never have been any doubt that this young lady had her rights violated.

But come on! "The strip search was the most humiliating experience I have ever had" is a quote you have printed, ostensibley from a 13 year old.

WHO CARES what a 13 year old has to say about how this or that action may have caused him or her trauma? Stick to the facts, idiot!

What is this crap: "Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between drug warriors and child molesters"

Yeah! I guess if you are looking for child molesters it's hard to sort it all out.

But when you are reporting on a Circuit Court opinion, maybe you should keep your own opinions to yourself ... if you want to seem credible to a casual onlooker.

But if you are only trying to look spiffy in the eyes of a faithful fanbase, well then I guess you probably don't care for my objective opinion, do you?

Scared

Wow! I couldn't imagine someone being so horrifically stupid!

I hope they sue the holy hell out of the parties responsible as well as bring criminal charges against them. That is sad and frightening.

Pat

"...the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which ruled 6-5..."

Um... 6 to 5? WTF? That is the scariest part of this article.

Where is this country going?

John Roberts

LOL, Welcome to the new Regime! Condition them to unreasonable search and seizure while they are young. Way to go Dictator Bush!
FireMe.To/udi

Renfield

Good for the court. Still, five crackpots on the Ninth Circuit thought the strip search was OK.

James

Another reason NOT to support public school. Homeschooling is looking better and better each year.

thereisnorule6

6-5?

Femme

You know I have to wonder what the hell these teachers thought they were doing. If something like this happened to my daughter, who is now 13, you can bet I'd hurt that teacher horribly and or strip search him/them in front of the school of children.

What a moron. And there are times when I 13, 14, 15, 16 etc. female will have Advils in their purse and not because they are doing something illegal.

I'm also blown away that there was a 2 to 1 ruling in favor of the search the firs t time and also not a 11 - 0 ruling this time. What the hell were those 5 Justices thinking? I'd love to read their reasons on that and would also like to know how many were male and how many were put in by which party.

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