South Carolina School District Settles Class Action Lawsuit for $1.2 M

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. – Motley Rice LLC announced April 5 that it has obtained federal court preliminary approval of a class settlement with the City of Goose Creek, S.C., the Goose Creek Police Department, the Berkeley County School District and several individuals for allegedly violating approximately 140 students’ Fourth Amendment rights during what the firm describes in a statement released to the public as the Nov. 5, 2003, unreasonable, school-authorized search and seizure that involved weapons and police dogs.

The class action lawsuit, which was filed on Dec. 5, 2003, charged the defendants with violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights protecting individuals from unreasonable search and seizure, and the deprivation of liberty without due process. It also alleged that the defendants engaged in assault, battery and false arrest. The plaintiffs sought a permanent injunction requiring policy changes for drug searches in Berkley County schools, a declaration of violation of the U.S. Constitution, compensatory and punitive damages. The federal court preliminarily approved the terms of the settlement and class notice.

“From day one it has been our goal to resolve this issue and to put in place a system to ensure it does not happen again. We are now pleased with this proposed settlement,” said Fritz J. Jekel, Motley Rice attorney and co-leader of the negotiations. “These children are forever changed by the actions that took place that day. Hopefully now they will at least have some satisfaction knowing future Stratford High School students will not have to endure such injustice.”

The proposed Class Action Settlement will provide $1,2 million to be shared among students who were subjected to the search and seizure. This amount includes funding to reimburse medical costs associated with the incident. Additionally, it will provide non-monetary relief, such as additional training and other measures designed to protect students. The Court has set a class notice procedure that will allow this settlement to move forward.

“We feel just as strongly as anyone that drugs have no place in the schools, but neither do gun-wielding police officers and commando-style raids orchestrated by the school. This settlement should serve as a reminder to administrators and police officials as to how students’ civil rights should be protected,” stated Motley Rice attorney Marlon E. Kimpson.

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