Friday, January 16, 2009

The War on Advil

The Supreme Court is set to hear a case where a school district strip searched a 13 year old goal, who had no disciplinary record and was an honor student, on the unfounded suspicion that she might have ibuprofen on her person.
Redding was pulled from class by a male vice principal, Kerry Wilson, escorted to an office and confronted with the evidence. She denied the accusations.

A search of Redding's backpack found nothing. Then, although she had never had prior disciplinary problems, a strip-search was conducted with the help of a school nurse and Wilson's assistant, both females. According to court records, she was ordered to strip to her underwear and her bra was pulled out. Again, no drugs were found.

In an affidavit, Redding said, "The strip-search was the most humiliating experience I have ever had. I held my head down so that they could not see that I was about to cry."

With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Redding and her family sued, and a federal appeals court in San Francisco, California, ruled against the school.

The court wrote: "Common sense informs us that directing a 13-year-old girl to remove her clothes, partially revealing her breasts and pelvic area, for allegedly possessing ibuprofen ... was excessively intrusive."

The court said the school went too far in its effort to create a drug- and crime-free classroom. "The overzealousness of school administrators in efforts to protect students has the tragic impact of traumatizing those they claim to serve. And all this to find prescription-strength ibuprofen."

In its appeal to the high court, the school district said requiring a legal standard of "probable cause" to conduct student searches would cast a "roadblock to the kind of swift and effective response that is too often needed to protect the very safety of students, particularly from the threats posed by drugs and weapons."

As shocking as this case is, I'm not optimistic about what the court will do. The court has already held that the horrors of drugs means schools are allowed to punish students from uttering gibberish phrases which include drug terminology off of school property. Why would they hesitate to extend the analysis to allow for the sexual humiliation of women? The war on drugs has already established itself as a constitutional super-amendment anyway. Why should this case be the one that stops the cart in its tracks?

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