Strip Searching is IN Sexting is OUT
Apparently strip searching is IN and sexting is OUT. Students take heed: adult school administrators have the Constitutional right to force you to remove your bra, panties and boxers anytime for almost any reason, but if you take a cell phone picture of it, you can be charged with producing child pornography with a ten year mandatory minimum in the federal pen.
Yesterday the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in a case we’ve been following since last summer, Safford Unified School District v. Redding, No. 08-479. Early indications are that the Court will follow its traditional pattern in cases involving schools and drugs by giving school officials broad discretion in their supervisory role over students.
Justice David Souter indicated that law and order must prevail when he said at one point, “My thought process is, I would rather have the kid embarrassed by a strip search, if we can’t find anything short of that, than to have some other kids dead because the stuff is distributed at lunchtime and things go awry.”
The school district’s lawyer Matthew Wright argued that “searching any place where she might be reasonably hiding that contraband was constitutionally permissible” because of the schools’ primary role in keeping students safe. “It’s not like a criminal issue where they’re trying to prosecute. This is a case where they’re trying to protect,” Wright said. “It is best for this Court to defer to their judgment . . . and not second-guess those rules.”
But Souter, noting that the drug in question in the search of middle school student Savanna Redding was only ibuprofen, surmised, “At some point it gets silly, Having an aspirin tablet does not present a health and safety risk.”
And Justice Antonin Scalia asked if, under Wright’s logic, authorities would be justified in conducting a prison-style body cavity search of students.
At first Wright rejected the suggestion. “That is something the Court can clearly say is off-limits” in part because school officials are not trained to conduct such searches. But in the end he conceded that legally speaking, “I could see that result,” though he said local school boards would not allow body cavity searches.
Given this logic, it won’t be long before the National School Boards Association will be crafting model rules for student strip searches and the American Association of School Administrators will be training staff on how to conduct “prison-style” body cavity searches.
Just remember kids, when someone appears from the principal’s office trying to protect you, you better put down your cell phone and take off your clothes. The Constitution requires no less.
The Court’s decision is expected by this summer.