Students Sue School Over Strip Searches

Published: March 25, 2009

A lawsuit was filed on the behalf of four male students of Connecticut’s Pine Academy, an alternative education program, who say they were strip searched and falsely detained during a search for missing money, according to the Connecticut Post.

The students, whose ages range from 15 to 17, said they were strip searched on Dec. 4. The search was authorized by Patricia Nicolari, the former principal of the school. During the search, John Pollins and Edward Hoffstatter, former teachers at the institution, told the students to pull down their pants, lift up their shirts and pull down their underwear in attempts to locate $70 a teacher said she was missing, according to the lawsuit. Two of the boys said Hoffstatter and Pollins looked at their private areas during the search.

The defendants are charged with unlawful search and seizure, negligent infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, invasion of privacy, invasion of privacy by false light, slander per se and false imprisonment.

The Board of Education placed the defendants on paid administrative leave after the incident. As a result of an agreement reached in February, Nicolari and Pollins will remain on leave and resign at the end of the school term.

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For his part, Hoffstatter said he had only been employed at the school for two days before the incident occurred. He maintains that he just observed the searches, as he was told it was standard operating procedure. He said he found the situation uncomfortable, and no longer works for the district.

The lawsuit seeks more than $15,000 for each student. As a result of the incident, two students have sought therapy; one student is trying to transfer out of the district; and another is being home-schooled.

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