U.S. Supreme Court to Review School Strip-Search Case

    The U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide whether allowing schools to conduct strip-searches is a reasonable way to prevent drug use in schools; the court is reviewing a case where a school official ordered a strip-search of a middle-school student to see if she was carrying prescription-strength ibuprofen, the Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 17.

    While students are protected against “unreasonable searches,” school officials are allowed to search students and their property if they have reason to believe that students possess drugs or are breaking school rules.

    However, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld 13-year-old Savana Redding’s right to sue her school’s assistant principal for ordering a strip search, and the Safford Unified School District for violating Redding’s constitutional rights.

    The court said the full-body search was unreasonable, and found the assistant principal was liable for “a grossly intrusive search of a middle-school girl to locate pills with the potency of two over-the-counter Advil capsules.”

    The school district appealed the case to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the ruling would “create enormous confusion for school officials in trying to determine when and how searches may now properly be conducted.” School officials asserted that judges do not understand the “shifting trends in drug abuse,” and should leave such judgment calls to school officials.


    January 2009