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In a ruling of interest to educators, parents and students across the country, the Supreme Court ruled, 8 to 1, that the strip search of a 13-year-old Arizona girl by school officials who were looking for prescription-strength drugs violated her constitutional rights.
The officials in Safford, Ariz., would have been justified in 2003 had they limited their search to the backpack and outer clothing of Savana Redding, who was in the eighth grade at the time, the court ruled. But in searching her undergarments, they went too far and violated her Fourth Amendment privacy rights, the justices said.
Had Savana been suspected of having illegal drugs that could have posed a far greater danger to herself and other students, the strip search, too, might have been justified, the majority said, in an opinion by Justice David H. Souter.
“In sum, what was missing from the suspected facts that pointed to Savana was any indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose that Savana was carrying pills in her underwear,” the court said. “We think that the combination of these deficiencies was fatal to finding the search reasonable.”
In fact, no pills were found on Savana when her underwear was examined by two school officials, both women, who were acting on a tip passed along by another student…
Questions of individual responsibility vs. institutional bureaucrat protections will come up in lower courts – if the young lass and her family care to pursue them.
Meanwhile, an important step in redefining privacy has been taken. I’d be the first to admit to contradictory feelings about crime vs. privacy; but, this appears to be just one more case of officials thinking they are little tin gods.