Judges Rule High School Strip Searches Unconstitutional in ACLU of Michigan Lawsuit

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
April 4, 2005 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Michigan
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

Contact: media@aclu.org

Ruling is Binding in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee

DETROIT – In a victory for student rights, a panel of federal judges ruled today that a strip search conducted on more than 20 students at Whitmore Lake High School was unconstitutional.

“This opinion is a victory for student privacy because it ensures that students throughout Michigan will not be subjected to such demeaning strip searches again,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director. “Young people do not forfeit their human rights when they enter school.”

In the ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit determined, “The highly intrusive nature of the searches, the fact that the searches were performed on a substantial number of students, the fact that the searches were performed in the absence of individualized suspicion, and the lack of consent, taken together, demonstrate that the searches were not reasonable.” The ruling is binding on all school officials in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The case stems from a May 2000 incident in which a high school student reported that money had been taken from her gym bag during gym class. In an unsuccessful attempt to find the money, teachers, at the direction of the acting principal, strip-searched all members of the gym class. The boys were forced to pull down their pants and underwear while they were examined by a teacher. The girls were forced to stand in a circle and pull up their shirts and pull down their shorts.

Although the court ruled that the Whitmore Lake teachers and a police officer violated the students’ constitutional rights, it also held that the teachers and officer were “immune” from liability because they were government officials.

The students have not yet decided whether to appeal the immunity ruling. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of eight students, alleging that the strip searches violated the students’ right to be free of unreasonable searches. The case is being litigated by ACLU Cooperating Attorneys Matthew Krichbaum and Richard Soble of Soble, Rowe & Krichbaum in Ann Arbor.

To read the Court of Appeals decision, go to: http://pacer.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/05a0155p-06.pdf.

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The Latest in Free Speech

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About Free Speech

Free Speech issue image

Protecting free speech means protecting a free press, the democratic process, diversity of thought, and so much more. The ACLU has worked since 1920 to ensure that freedom of speech is protected for everyone.