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January 17, 2009

Strip Search Case Goes to the Supreme Court

Friday afternoon the Supreme Court granted certiorari in a case we've been watching here at the HQ for almost a year now, Redding v. Safford Unified School District #1.

This is the one where a 13 year-old student was subjected to a strip search in the nurse's office after another student who was caught with prescription-strength ibuprofen implicated her. The search of her bag turned up nothing, but the school has a "zero tolerance policy" when it comes to drugs of any kind, so the administrators lost their minds and made her strip. And shake.

Ace first mentioned it in April when a panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled that the search was not a Fourth Amendment violation (the comments got pretty heated). I wrote about it in July when the circuit sitting en banc reversed in a close decision (6-5), holding that the strip search was far from reasonable and unjustifiable even under the modified Fourth Amendment jurisprudence applied to public schools.

Now it goes to the Supreme Court where I'm not sure what the justices will do with it. The last major case involving drugs and public schools was the First Amendment contest in Morse v. Frederick. The Chief Justice, joined by his conservative colleagues (plus Kennedy), held that deterring drug use by schoolchildren is an “important—indeed, perhaps compelling” interest which justified restricting free speech rights in school and at school events.

It will be interesting to see if they follow their conservative colleagues from the Ninth Circuit who believed the strip search in Redding was permissible or perhaps the second group of dissenters who believed that even though the search was impermissible the school officials should receive immunity. If you're interested, the en banc decision is here.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 02:22 AM

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