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U.S. Supreme Court Grants Review in School Strip Search Case

Anjuli Verma,
Drug Law Reform Project
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January 16, 2009

You may have heard the infamous case of the 13-year-old girl who was strip-searched by school officials for allegedly possession ibuprofen (Advil). Perhaps as surprising as the strip search itself is today’s news that the U.S. Supreme Court has granted review in the case — meaning it will reconsider a lower court’s ruling that the student’s constitutional rights were violated.

Which raises the question: If the constitution doesn’t protect 13-year-olds from being strip-searched at school for allegedly possessing Advil, who does the constitution protect?

It’s hard to understand how the illegality of strip-searching Savana Redding is again up for debate. Consider the school’s case:

  • 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.
  • No attempt was made to corroborate the classmate’s accusations among other students or teachers.
  • The classmate had not even 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.

The lower court’s ruling said it best: “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.” Indeed.