Maybe We Should Have Listened To Anita Hill
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?