Thursday, June 25, 2009

Maybe We Should Have Listened To Anita Hill

The Supreme Court has ruled in an 8 to 1 decision that school districts can NOT strip-search students suspected of possessing Advil:
The Supreme Court said Thursday school officials acted illegally when they strip-searched of an Arizona teenage girl looking for prescription-strength ibuprofen.

In an 8-1 ruling, the justices said that school officials violated the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches when ordered Savana Redding to remove her clothes and shake out her underwear.

Redding was 13 when Safford Middle School officials in rural eastern Arizona conducted the search. They were looking for pills — the equivalent of two Advils. The district bans prescription and over-the-counter drugs and the school was acting on a tip from another student.

Clarence Thomas cast the sole dissenting vote:

In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas found the search legal and said the court previously had given school officials "considerable leeway" under the Fourth Amendment in school settings.

Officials had searched the girl's backpack and found nothing, Thomas said. "It was eminently reasonable to conclude the backpack was empty because Redding was secreting the pills in a place she thought no one would look," Thomas said.

Thomas warned that the majority's decision could backfire. "Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments," he said. "Nor will she be the last after today's decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school."

I'd be more sympathetic toward Thomas's argument if they were searching for, say, a miniature nuclear bomb in the girl's underwear, but think about the implication of his argument: strip-searching multiple innocent people -- children, no less -- is, in his mind, preferable to letting the occasional person get away with Advil possession.

Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty," Justice Thomas? Do you seriously believe "the right to keep your clothes on in public" is yet another right Americans must abandon in the name of the War on Drugs?

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas is an obvious pervert who needs help. Just look at his choice of words: secreting. Why use secrete instead of conceal unless you're diddling yourself under your robe?

10:14 AM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

I'm shocked that it was 8 to 1. I figured with the pro-cop attitude the Black Robed set has shown over the years that it would be much closer than that.

5:43 AM  
Blogger Indagare said...

I guess it would depend on what we want our students to learn in school - and what it says about society at large. If schools are meant to teach students to be ready for adult life in America then unreasonable searches and lack of Constitutional rights do not prepare them for adult life in the US. Then again given the searches done at airports perhaps the strip searches are preparing students for exactly what they'll face as adults - abject humiliation, subjection to warrentless searches and lack of privacy in the name of protection and freedom.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Thom said...

First, let's try a *rationale* discussion about this.

Thomas wasn't ruling on *anything* related to whether the "illegal substance" (according to the school's policies) was prescription Ibuprofen, or Advil or whatever.

It was actually a ruling on whether or not the strip search was reasonable, in the process of the school's hunt for an "illegal substance" (again, by the school's definition, not the SCOTUS, not Thomas or anyone else).

Let's not get lost in the Advil argument, because that's not really relevant.

Sadly, Thomas is correct in one aspect, in that the SCOTUS has now told every youth in America, that you can hide school contraband (whatever your school may define that as) in your underwear, and there's nothing they can do about it.

The more pressing, fundamental problems for me in this matter;

- The school's extremism in it's overzealous, but probably well-intentioned "zero tolerance" drug policy, that would make this scenario (hiding ibuprofen) even come to pass.

- the school culture that exists where one student pimps out another for having ibuprofen with them
-

6:13 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Sadly, Thomas is correct in one aspect, in that the SCOTUS has now told every youth in America, that you can hide school contraband (whatever your school may define that as) in your underwear, and there's nothing they can do about it.


In other words, the status quo of the past 200+ years of American history remains unchanged in that regard. AAAAAIIIGH! PANIC!!

7:00 AM  
Blogger Thom said...

No Jennifer - no panic at all. Just trying to rationally consider all sides of the argument, not advocating anything yet.

Don't get me wrong. I think forcing a strip search on a school child is abhorrent, and in these particular circumstances, absolutely unreasonable.

However, how might your position change if it were a male student, whom was reported to be stashing roofies in his Fruit-of-the-Looms? Clearly a violation of the school policy regarding controlled substances, and in such a scenario, one that poses a threat to other students. Can you honestly tell me that your position is that here again, the school would be unreasonable in its search?

Here again, I point out that the SCOTUS wasn't ruling on *what* was in the students pants, it was ruling on whether or not the school had a reasonable right to search.

A challenge we all have with logically debating this story is so much of our perception of it is driven by; a) the lurid concept/image of a school girl getting stripped searched, and b) the indignation of the "controlled substance" being so benign.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

how might your position change if it were a male student, whom was reported to be stashing roofies in his Fruit-of-the-Looms? ... Can you honestly tell me that your position is that here again, the school would be unreasonable in its search?

Yes, I can honestly say my position is unchanged. The Constitution already provides for the possibility that authorities might need to do a search against someone's will; it's called "getting a search warrant."

There's also the concept called "understand that in a free society, bad things will sometimes happen." If we had police cameras in every private home in America, I'm sure domestic violene rates would drop way down ... but the occasional regrettable incident of family violence, even leading to death, is still better than installing telescreens in the private sphere.

8:06 AM  

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