Female Students Were Told to Shake Out Their Bras Without Probable Cause, in Violation of Constitutional Privacy Rights
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RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) submitted a friend-of-the-court brief yesterday to the North Carolina Supreme Court in the matter of T.A.S, the case of an alternative school student whose administrators wrongfully subjected her and other female students to an intrusive strip search of their personal effects, jackets, pockets, shoes, socks, and undergarments without any reasonable suspicion that these individuals had been involved in wrongdoing. The student, referred to as T.A.S., was 15 at the time of the search.
On Nov. 5, 2008, the principal at Brunswick County Academy, an alternative high school in Bolivia, North Carolina, where students daily pass through metal detectors as they enter the building, received an anonymous tip that students were bringing pills to school. The school proceeded to conduct an intrusive strip search of all the girls at the school. The girls were required to perform a “bra lift,” where they pull their shirts out, shake them, and pull their bras away from their bodies using their thumbs.
“Students do not surrender their rights when they enter school, and these types of broad, suspicionless searches are clearly unconstitutional,” said Katy Parker, ACLU-NCLF Legal Director. “Brunswick Academy officials forced these girls to submit to an invasive and demeaning strip search that came with no reasonable cause or suspicion. There is simply no legal or common-sense justification for treating students this way.”
The ACLU-NCLF brief notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has never upheld a school-wide suspicionless search for law enforcement purposes. A friend-of-the-court brief is a legal opinion submitted to a court by a party not associated with the case for the purposes of assisting in the court’s decision. The ACLU-NCLF was joined in filing the brief by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Advocates for Children’s Services of Legal Aid of North Carolina, the Juvenile Law Center, the National Juvenile Defender Center, North Carolina Office of the Juvenile Defender, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, UNC Center for Rights, and the UNC Juvenile Justice Clinic.
The ACLU of North Carolina is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving and expanding the guarantees of individual liberty found in the United States Constitution, the North Carolina Constitution, and related federal and state civil rights laws. With more than 7,000 members and supporters throughout the state and an office located in Raleigh, the organization achieves its mission through advocacy, public education, community outreach, and when necessary, litigation.
A copy of the brief can be found at www.acluofnc.org.