Supreme Court Declares School Strip Search Illegal

WASHINGTON
Published: June 24, 2009

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a student who was illegally strip searched on school grounds at the age of 13. The girl, now 19 year old, was ordered to remove her clothes and loosen her undergarments in a Safford Middle School nursing office while school officials searched for prescription drugs.

The then-eight grader was accused of having prescription-strength ibuprofen, which was against district policy. The strip-search was ordered by the school’s vice principal. No pills were found on the student.

The court said Safford Middle School officials could not be held liable in the lawsuit. The decision would be left to the lower courts to determine if the district could be held accountable, reported the Associated Press.

The Supreme Court decision has led Chief Justice John Roberts to comment on the court’s responsibilities regarding school rules. According to Roberts, the Supreme Court does not look to set school rules, but will clarity them when officials have relinquished that duty.

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School officials have received seemingly mixed messages stemming from two Supreme Court decisions, according to USA Today. The first being the unconstitutional strip search of the Arizona teen, and the second being a 2007 case where the court ruled that administrators were allowed to restrict student speech if it advocated illegal drug use.

Roberts said there no conflict between the two rulings. Instead, the decisions were intended to bring clarity to deal with narrow issues that surface from government actions.

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