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bullet  ZT v. Savana Redding: a Court Decision
 

Updated:

March 2009
June 2009: Supreme Court Victory!
2011: Resolution

A tremendous number of zero tolerance stories pass in front of me as I search for stories for True, and (contrary to what some readers think) I pass by most of them. I've previously encouraged those who are truly wronged by ZT to consider suing their schools.

The family of Savana Redding, who was 13 when she was ZTd, did just that, suing the school district and school officials with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit was thrown out, but they appealed, and after two rounds got a strongly worded victory from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit -- but with a shockingly thin 6-5 margin.

Why is the case "shocking"? Redding, an honor student who had never been in trouble before, was strip-searched by Safford Middle School officials in Safford, Arizona, because of unsubstantiated allegations that she (gasp!) might have the anti-inflammatory drug Advil on her person. Despite being forced to reveal her breasts and pelvic region, school officials found no drugs, illegal or otherwise. They would not let the girl call her mother before, or even after, the incident. Two school officials (both female) ordered the girl to undress, and watched her as she did so.

Here's how the appeals court summarized the search:

There, at [vice principal Kerry] Wilson's behest, [Wilson's administrative assistant Helen] Romero and the school nurse, Peggy Schwallier, conducted a strip search of Savana. The officials had Savana peel off each layer of clothing in turn. First, Savana removed her socks, shoes and jacket for inspection for ibuprofen. The officials found nothing. Then, Romero asked Savana to remove her T-shirt and stretch pants. Embarrassed and scared, Savana complied and sat in her bra and underwear while the two adults examined her clothes. Again, the officials found nothing. Still progressing with the search, despite receiving only corroboration of Savana's pleas that she did not have any ibuprofen, Romero instructed Savana to pull her bra out to the side and shake it. Savana followed the instructions, exposing her naked breasts in the process. The shaking failed to dislodge any pills. Romero next requested that Savana pull out her underwear at the crotch and shake it. Hiding her head so that the adults could not see that she was about to cry, Savana complied and pulled out her underwear, revealing her pelvic area. No ibuprofen was found. The school officials finally stopped and told Savana to put her clothes back on and accompany Romero back to Wilson's office. Savana did not freely agree to this search. She was "embarrassed and scared, but felt [she] would be in more trouble if [she] did not do what they asked." In her affidavit, Savana described the experience as "the most humiliating experience" of her short life, and felt "violated by the strip search." (emphasis added)

Demand Common Sense.What was the school officials' basis for such a search? The school has a "zero tolerance" policy against drugs, and extended the principle to all "drugs" -- including over-the-counter pills such as ibuprofen, which teen girls often use to relieve menstrual cramps.

The court ruled that reasoning is outrageous.

"It does not take a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old girl is an invasion of constitutional rights," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the majority of the judges. "More than that: it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity."

Now, in this case, it was prescription-strength (400 mg) Advil -- one pill is the equivalent of two over-the-counter tablets; two OTC tablets is a typical dose. The court was not swayed by the drug's prescription-only status:

We reject Safford's effort to lump together these run-of-the-mill anti-inflammatory pills with the evocative term "prescription drugs," in a knowing effort to shield an imprudent strip search of a young girl behind a larger war against drugs. ... Nothing in the record provides any evidence that the school officials were concerned in this case about controlled substances violative of state or federal law. No legal decision cited to us or that we could find permitted a strip search to discover substances regularly available over the counter at any convenience store throughout the United States. ... And contrary to any suggestion that finding the ibuprofen was an urgent matter to avoid a parade of horribles, even if Savana had possessed the ibuprofen pills, any danger they posed was neutralized once school officials seized Savana and held her in the assistant principal's office. Savana had no means at that point to distribute the pills, and whatever immediately threatening activity the school may have perceived by the alleged possession of prescription-strength ibuprofen had been thwarted. The school officials had only to send Savana home for the afternoon to prevent the rumored lunchtime distribution from taking place -- assuming she in fact possessed the pills on her person. The lack of any immediate danger to students only further diminishes the initial minimal nature of the alleged infraction of bringing ibuprofen onto campus.

The school conducted the strip search based on a statement by the student they had confiscated the pills from. They made no attempt to corrborate that accusation, and the student had not suggested that she had any more pills, nor suggested that they were hidden in her underwear. Another student, a boy, was also found to have pills, but he did not implicate Redding. Here's the court's summary of what happened with the other students:

Inexplicably, although Marissa was the one found with the pills, the search conducted on Marissa was less intrusive than that later conducted on Savana, whose only link to the pills was Marissa's uncorroborated "tip." School officials asked Marissa only to lift her shirt, not to remove it entirely, as they did with Savana. The third student suspect was a boy named Chris. He was the only student suspected of the same infraction that day not required to strip for the school officials' inspection.

Other commentators had something to say about that.

"There are two kinds of people in the world," editorialized Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason magazine: "the kind who think it's perfectly reasonable to strip-search a 13-year-old girl suspected of bringing ibuprofen to school, and the kind who think those people should be kept as far away from children as possible." Sullum said that "Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between drug warriors and child molesters." He grumbled that "It's a good thing the school took swift action, before anyone got unauthorized relief from menstrual cramps." (Source: The School Crotch Inspector.)

What about higher level school officials? Nothing but support for the vice principal. Principal Robert Beeman said "he did not think the strip search was a big deal because they did not find anything," Redding told the court. Presumably the school district is paying for the legal defense in the case.

"A reasonable school official," the court lectured, "seeking to protect the students in his charge, does not subject a thirteen-year-old girl to a traumatic search to 'protect' her from the danger of Advil."

"Just Sue 'Em!"

It's easy to say that people should sue when they're wronged, but it's not an easy road to travel. Consider this: the search in question was conducted on October 8, 2003 -- nearly five years ago. With the decision on Friday, July 11, 2008 that I'm reporting on here, the Court of Appeals is merely ruling that the suit can proceed. The actual lawsuit hasn't even been argued yet!

Theoretically it can now proceed with dispatch. But as I made clear in my book The True Stella Awards, the lengthy process of getting a suit through our courts often is a series of "justice delayed is justice denied" starts and stops. The appeals court cleared the way for the case to proceed five years from the incident -- the trial court clock now starts ticking again from the start.

And the court decision also made it clear that it's not just the school district which can be sued, but also the vice principal as an individual, since he ordered the strip search in clear violation of Redding's Constitutional rights, but not the two women who actually conducted the strip search of the young girl under his direction.

Here's how the suit has progressed so far, as detailed by the appeals court:

  • The Reddings brought suit in the Federal District Court for the District of Arizona against Safford Unified School District #1, Wilson, Romero and Schwallier.
  • The school district, et al, filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the defense of qualified immunity precluded them from being sued. Their motion relied solely on the argument that the strip search did not violate Savana's Fourth Amendment rights, and "because there was no constitutional violation, no further inquiry is necessary."
  • The district court ruled for them entirely on the basis that there was no violation of Savana's constitutional (Fourth Amendment) right. Moreover, the district court concluded that the need to locate the ibuprofen was sufficiently urgent that the strip search was "reasonably related" to the search's objective and was not "excessively intrusive." The conclusion that Savana's constitutional rights were not violated rendered consideration of the second step of qualified immunity -- whether the right was clearly established -- unnecessary.
  • Upon appeal, a divided panel of our court upheld the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants (appellees). The two-judge majority -- in a now vacated opinion -- concluded that "[a]mple facts supported Marissa's veracity as an informant...." The majority found the strip search permissible in scope because "the strong interest" in protecting students from prescription drugs outweighed the intrusion caused by the search the panel thought was conducted in a "reasonable manner." In dissent, Judge Thomas asserted that the majority had misapplied Supreme Court authority. While a search may have been justified, the panel failed to undertake "the appropriate inquiry [of] whether a strip search was justified." Because it "was unreasonable to force Savana, a thirteen-year-old girl, to expose her breasts and pubic area to school officials" while they searched for ibuprofen, Judge Thomas concluded that the strip search failed to meet constitutional muster.
  • A majority of our judges in regular active service voted to reconsider en banc whether the strip search violated Savana's Fourth Amendment rights, and, if so, whether those rights were clearly established in October 2003, when the school officials conducted the strip search.
  • The strip search of thirteen-year-old Savana did not satisfy either prong of [Supreme Court precedent] and therefore was conducted in violation of Savana's Fourth Amendment rights. These constitutional principles were clearly established by the United States Supreme Court twenty years before the Safford school officials conducted the strip search of thirteen-year-old Savana. Therefore, we reverse the district court's determination that there was no violation of Savana's constitutional rights, conclude that the constitutional principles were clearly established as to Assistant Principal Wilson, affirm the grant of qualified immunity as to Schwallier and Romero, and remand for further proceedings consistent herewith [in the lower court].

What of the dissension by the five judges? There were two dissensions filed. In the first, Judges Gould and Silverman wrote that while they agreed that the rules in the Supreme Court precedent case were not satisfied and that "common sense" shows that the strip search of Savana was therefore "unreasonable and unconstitutional," they believe that the individuals named in the suit (the vice principal, his assistant, and the school nurse) are entitled to a qualified immunity from liability, essentially because the law wasn't clear enough for them to understand.

The dissent noted that some search was reasonable (such as of Redding's backpack and jacket), but not a strip search. Still, the first dissent noted the judges "can understand how school officials, even though they made an erroneous decision, should have some insulation from liability before our declaration of how these principles applied to this case."

In the second dissent, the remaining three judges said that they wouldn't call what happened to Redding a "strip search", in that she was "only" stripped to her underwear -- and school officials only looked inside in her bra and panties, rather than order them removed. The majority actually addressed that point specifically, reciting both case law and statutes which say stripping someone to their underwear in a search is a "strip search". The three judges then went on to say that essentially, the school's search did meet the requirements of the Supreme Court's rules, so on this point the court was divided 8-3, rather than 6-5.

The bottom line is that such questions are hard to decide, even if you spend your day second-guessing the actions of others and have access to law clerks to do research for you, but I am in full agreement with the majority of the court: the actions of the school officials -- government employees, all -- were outrageous.

This case will almost certainly have a very positive impact in the fight against zero tolerance. The court not only paved the way for the school to be sued, but also the vice principal (who ordered the strip search) but not his assistant and the school nurse (who performed the strip search at his direction). That sends an intense no-nonsense message to school officials: chill out now -- or else you will be personally responsible for what happens, even if you order someone else to do the dirty work. No hiding behind governmental immunity. That will cause such officials to do what they're supposed to do: think about what they're doing. That is, indeed, what we're paying them to do.

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If you'd like the details of the Appeals Court decision, you can read it in its entirety (including the dissensions) here (PDF file, 75 pages, 343 K). Savana Redding's statement (affidavit) to the district court detailing her experiences is here (PDF file, 5-page scan, 645 K).


March 2009 Update

I mentioned that the Appeals Court decision went for Redding by a "shockingly thin margin". Here's the consequence of that: the school district has appealed that ruling, which means the case now goes to the U.S. Supreme Court -- they've agreed to hear the case in April.

On the one hand, this is yet another delay in justice for Redding: this has been going on for a third of her life. On the other hand, a decision by the Supreme Court will have a much farther reaching effect than the 9th Circuit's decision, so I'm hoping for a clear and decisive blow against zero tolerance. The outrages must stop, and if it takes the Supreme Court to back that up, then so be it.

But not everyone agrees. The New York Times recently did a story on the case, and included this chilling quote: "Do we really want to encourage cases," asked Richard Arum, an education professor from New York University, "where students and parents are seeking monetary damages against educators in such school-specific matters where reasonable people can disagree about what is appropriate under the circumstances?"

Define "reasonable"! The 9th Circuit already did: "It does not take a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old girl is an invasion of constitutional rights," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the majority. "More than that: it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity." Who seriously wants to argue the other side of that? I mean, besides the school district's lawyer?

Remember that school officials are agents of the government. Do you really want your children to be strip searched in school? Yeah, I can imagine circumstances where it would be warranted, but not for an alleged Advil tablet. Especially when, as the court ruled, there was no reason to believe Redding was "carrying the pills inside her undergarments, attached to her nude body, or anywhere else that a strip search would reveal," as the 9th Circuit put it.

Let's hope the Supreme Court does the right thing and makes a strong statement about the outrageous overzealousness of zero tolerance. It's time to demand common sense.


June 2009 Update:
Common Sense Wins in Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court has ruled, and common sense won! The court ruled 8-1 that school officials violated the law with their outrageous strip search. (Specifically: The search of Savana's underwear violated the Constitution's Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search.)

"What was missing from the suspected facts that pointed to Savana was any indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose that Savana was carrying pills in her underwear," wrote Justice David Souter in the majority opinion. "We think that the combination of these deficiencies was fatal to finding the search reasonable."

However, the court "counsel[ed] doubt that we were sufficiently clear in the prior statement of law" -- which means the court ruled that the school officials cannot be held personally liable in the lawsuit the Redding family has filed. Whether or not the school district itself is liable was kicked back to a lower court to decide. There was dissent on the principal not being liable, however. Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought he should be. "[Vice Principal Kerry] Wilson's treatment of Redding was abusive and it was not reasonable for him to believe that the law permitted it," Ginsburg said in her dissent. "Abuse of authority of that order should not be shielded by official immunity."

More quotes from the ruling:

  • Because the suspected facts pointing to Savana did not indicate that the drugs presented a danger to students or were concealed in her underwear, Wilson did not have sufficient suspicion to warrant extending the search to the point of making Savana pull out her underwear. [Wilson's administrative assistant Helen] Romero and [school nurse Peggy] Schwallier said that they did not see anything when Savana pulled out her underwear, but a strip search and its Fourth Amendment consequences are not defined by who was looking and how much was seen. Savana's actions in their presence necessarily exposed her breasts and pelvic area to some degree, and both subjective and reasonable societal expectations of personal privacy support the treatment of such a search as categorically distinct, requiring distinct elements of justification on the part of school authorities for going beyond a search of outer clothing and belongings.

  • Savana's subjective expectation of privacy is inherent in her account of it as embarrassing, frightening, and humiliating. The reasonableness of her expectation is indicated by the common reaction of other young people similarly searched, whose adolescent vulnerability intensifies the exposure's patent intrusiveness. Its indignity does not outlaw the search, but it does implicate the rule that "the search [be] 'reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place.'"

  • [In this case,] the content of the suspicion failed to match the degree of intrusion. Because Wilson knew that the pills were common pain relievers, he must have known of their nature and limited threat and had no reason to suspect that large amounts were being passed around or that individual students had great quantities. Nor could he have suspected that Savana was hiding common painkillers in her underwear. When suspected facts must support the categorically extreme intrusiveness of a search down to an adolescent's body, petitioners' general belief that students hide contraband in their clothing falls short; a reasonable search that extensive calls for suspicion that it will succeed. Nondangerous school contraband does not conjure up the specter of stashes in intimate places, and there is no evidence of such behavior at the school....

The dissenting judge was Clarence Thomas, who wrote "Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments. Nor will she be the last after today's decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school." I'm OK with stoners getting a free pass if they're with-it enough to read Supreme Court decisions.

Click to see full text of Souter's Majority Opinion and Thomas's Dissent. Both pages have links on top for the other judges' filed opinions on the case.

Teens are treated like adults when it comes to crimes, but schools treat them like children when it comes to taking care of their own health. Children have died because they couldn't carry their life-saving medications with them, such as asthma inhalers, because schools think they need to control all "drugs" on campus. The harm isn't that kids carry Midol or ibuprofen for menstrual cramps, the true and long-lasting harm is not letting the students deal with their own health issues. This slap in the face of zero tolerance in favor of common sense was a long time coming, and I applaud the nearly unanimous decision by our Supreme Court. This is surely the beginning of a tidal change in school administration idiocy.


OK, Then What Happened?

Things went quiet after the Supreme Court decision. Apparently, the school district, and the Trust that indemnifies it, entered into a confidential settlement with Savana and her mother, and awarded them together $250,000, out of which they had to pay any legal expenses they incurred.

But wait! If it was confidential, how do I know how much the settlement amount was? In August 2011, OnPointNews.com editor Matthew Heller filed suit demanding that the school district release the confidential agreement because the money paid was taxpayer money. Graham County (Ariz.) Superior Court Judge Corey Sanders agreed, and ordered that the school district release the settlement agreement. Here it is (PDF, 250K).

Now, $250K (less legal expenses) isn't much compensation for the illegal and humiliating experience forced on a 13-year-old girl by school officials, but money isn't the point: the point is that it is now clearly established in the highest court in the land that there are limits to zero tolerance, and all schools should be on notice.

Kudos to OnPointNews.com, who forced the school district to release the settlement agreement. (Details here.)

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131 Comments on This Entry

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Posted by Drjan, Norway on July 14, 2008:

I read your blog, and I find it to be an hilarious, albeit disturbing insight into the American Court-system, and the laws "over there".

The ZT-policy, in itself, can be seen as a good idea. The implementation thereof seems to be lacking, though. The "war against drugs/terror/guns/porn/swearing/teddybears" (strike what doesn't fit) seems to have gone beyond reason.

There is, of course, plenty of real life reasons for the ZT-policy - there is a lot of drugs and violence present in todays America. Using that fact to ban teenagers from having access to common OTC drugs, water pistols, t-shirts with "threatening slogans" etc. is just plain idiotic.

I can, thankfully, say that it hasn't gotten this bad here in Norway as of yet. Who knows though - since we tend to import and deploy most of the American Way of Life anyway, there might be some ZT coming our way too.

I know that if this had been happening to me, that they would probably have had completely different reasons to throw the ZT-policy in my face. I would have been too furious to actually do anything but tell them to go to hell and then probably just gone home.

I hope the girl does go through with her lawsuit, and I hope she wins. Then, I hope there is a precedent set, and thousands of other lawsuits follow. Maybe even a class-action suit, to thwart this ZT-policy once and for all. As usual, they fail to see that the laws they put in place more often than not hampers the life of ordinary people, more than the criminals - simply because the criminals never cared about the laws in the first place. Forbidding drugs and guns at schools (I thought this was in place way before ZT-policy) isn't gonna make them go away any more than before - it's just gonna make people try harder to hide it.

And seriously - if someone brings a painkiller to school... because they hurt, and want to relieve that pain - then let them. If they want to give a pill to the other girl in class having her period, to easy her pain, let them. The world won't come to an end. I promise!

Posted by Piet, Durban South Africa on July 15, 2008:

Last Friday, 11 July 2008, a drug crazed heroin addict shot and killed his own wife, my sister-in-law, and her two pre-teen daughters, all with multiple shots to the head.

Does that make me feel like having a zero-tolerance against drug dealers? You bet it does! Does it mean that I support zero-tolerance against drug peddlers and traffickers? No, because two seconds worth of thinking and you realise that there are traffickers that are black-mailed into doing that, and numerous other circumstances to take into account. The overburdened criminal justice system is unfortunately all that we have, lets try and make that work better.

Does Friday's experience for *one* second make me think that Savana's experience was a "worthwhile sacrifice from an innocent bystander" in the "war against drugs"?

Don't be daft.

Posted by Ed, New York on July 15, 2008:

And this is why schools a) do not want the kids to have cell phones. 9-1-1 anyone? b) parents do not trust the schools to do their job. c) Johnny doesn't understand the Constitution -- teacher didn't read it either!

Q. Besides the slap on the wrist, did the administrator & nurse get fired? Did the family get any punitive damages? Case like this in NY several years ago the family did, but newer Supreme ruling has lowering the burden of proof may have changed some peoples interpretation of search as well.

Lastly, my local school board has refused to change their ZT policy (which they violate by carrying pocket knives :), as a medic & mandated reporter I have told them if any kid saves a an other by loaning out their inhaler to one in need I will put that kid on the front page of the newspaper getting an award for heroism. The Board can then explain to the press why that new hero is suspended for a year. :)

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Regarding your question, read the page again: the court decision means the lawsuit can get started -- nothing has been decided yet. After all, it's only been five years since the incident.... -rc

Posted by Lucy, Texas on July 15, 2008:

Many years ago, I read a book by Mercedes Lackey called "Queens Own". This is one of the Herald Mage series. Herald Mages had magical powers that could allow them to see into the hearts and minds of people to determine if they were speaking the truth.

In the book, Talia is asked to judge a case where a girl has accused her step-father of incest. She is able to determine that the girl is telling the truth and that she is pregnant. The step-father absolutely cannot see that he has done any wrong because she is not his "real" daughter and he considers her his property. Talia reaches into the girl's mind, grabs her memories of the assaults and implants them in the step-father's mind where he is required to re-live these experiences until he sees the error of his ways.

I truly wish I could do that to the superintendent, principal, vice-principal and anyone else who feels that this strip search for over-the-counter medication was reasonable.

ZT = Zero Brains. Not only should the parents' lawsuit be upheld, the adults involved should be stripped of their positions and prevented from ever working with children again.

Posted by Scott, in Killeen, TX on July 15, 2008:

Drjan, I used to take a couple of aspirin to school, because my legs often hurt during my teen years, often debilitatingly (it wasn't until much later that I found out that this was "growing pains", which I'd thought was a figurative term). One time, I had none with me, so asked the school librarian for one, which she was very careful to not give to me (she simply showed me where they were), because it was against school policy. That event would have been over 20 years ago by now.

How debilitating? One night, I ignored a minor ache, and went to sleep; I woke up several hours later, with legs and arms hurting so badly that I had to crawl to the bathroom to get the aspirin, then had to get my mother to open the bottle for me. A single OTC aspirin and 15 minutes later, I'm back to normal.

I can understand the concern, though, especially when one student gives pills to another student; apparently it's quite easy to disguise illegal substances to look like an ordinary OTC pill such as Advil -- plus many pills are difficult to identify from appearance alone. Following the chain of logic effectively forces the school administration to *at least* have parental consent and/or verified prescriptions for any drugs.

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I'm guessing you're a tall guy, Scott -- I had the same problem. And now that you mention it, I had a tiny pill bottle that I carried every day in high school so I could always have pain pills with me: in addition to "growing pains" I also had migraine headaches. Thankfully, it wasn't an issue in the 70s, when I was in school. I could take care of my own medical needs, thank you! -rc

Posted by Patricia, Dearborn Heights, MI on July 15, 2008:

So if Principal Robert Beeman said "he did not think the strip search was a big deal because they did not find anything," then let's round up the adults involved in either the decision to strip search or the actual participants and take them down to the station to "strip search" them. I wonder how much they would appreciate the experience.

Also, these are probably some of the most vocal people going on about THEIR constitutional rights when going through airport security and asked to take their shoes off.

I hope Savana (now 18) was able to maintain her honor roll status after such a traumatic experience and didn't fall into the decline of not caring when shown the stupidity of the "caring" people responsible for her education.

Simply outrageous! The justice system is totally backward for children. The parents should have been called immediately and allowed to be present. But the "Right to remain silent" nor "illegal searches without a warrant" does NOT apply to juveniles in this country!

I could understand if this was a weapons case, but aspirin? When I was in school (in the 70s), the school nurse would give you aspirin if you had a headache or menstrual cramps. Should we keep our girls home 1 to 3 days out of each month just to keep them comfortable?

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Your idea of a strip search of the people involved is an interesting one. I think the chances of finding something prohibited are quite high -- a pocket knife, an aspirin, something that a kid would be suspended for having. As we've seen many times, the zero in zero tolerance is for the kids, not the staff. -rc

Posted by Oriana, Seattle on July 15, 2008:

I used to carry a bottle of Advil on my person to school to cure intensely uncomfortable menstrual cramps. In some girls, cramps can seriously impair concentration... making it a real effort to study! And isn't that, after all, the point to school?! To study??

Now I'm older, and I have a nine-year old daughter of my own... and if she's like her mother, and her grandmother before her... she'll have intense menstrual cramps, REQUIRING some kind of pain killer for relief so she can function. I'm afraid for her. I've already sat her down to discuss what school officials are allowed to do and NOT allowed. And by not allowed... I mean what *I* will not allow them to do without my presence. (Screw THEIR rules... obviously they aren't looking out for the children!!) I'm not sure how much, at nine, she understands... but it distresses me that I have to have this conversation with her at all!!

Not a big deal because they didn't find something?! So if they HAD, it would be a big deal?? How does that change in ANY way the humiliation and violation of that poor girl?!

Parents: warn your children!! Set down what rules YOU think are acceptable, and tell your children not to comply with ANYTHING outside of YOUR rules without your presence!!

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I agree: it's sad that you have to have that talk with your children. But you do have to. One of the rules is to not put anything in writing, or sign any statement, without your having looked at it first. Such statements are often used not just to justify expelling the student, but also for criminal charges. Anytime a kid thinks she's in trouble, parents should be called in. Good for you for having that talk with your daughter. But don't think you're done. You should do it every year before school starts. The issues change, she will understand more, and you will think of more things to clue her in on. It's a sad but very necessary part of growing up, and on these issues you cannot believe school officials will be helpful. -rc

Posted by Scott, in Killeen, TX on July 15, 2008:

Patricia: I had the impression that parents are SUPPOSED to be present for such things. I know that the school system (legally) acts as parents, but I would expect that any parent would want at least a courtesy call before any non-routine steps are taken. I can't imagine most parents agreeing to "we're going to have your baby girl undress and show us that she doesn't have anything hidden in her clothes or undies, because someone else, whom we caught with the goods, claimed to have gotten an Advil from her" unless they already know that their kid might be in the wrong. The only real reason that I can see for not calling the parents is when the school personnel know that the parents will be unhappy about it... which is why they SHOULD be called.

Randy: You posted someone's suggestion some time ago about cutting the pay of school administrators who clearly do not realize that they are being paid to think. A similar idea that occurs to me would be to get a restraining order against people who have done stupid ZT things to your kid, requiring that they not knowingly approach within so many yards or make any decisions related to your kid. That might get the point across also. I'm sure that a decent lawyer can provide an explanation to the school district of why it would be a bad idea to move the kid instead of moving the offender(s).

Posted by Robert, Adelaide Australia on July 15, 2008:

Patricia asked "Should we keep our girls home 1 to 3 days out of each month just to keep them comfortable?"

The obvious answer is 'No', however that is exactly what I have to do with my two girls every month. And it's actually 5 to 7 days. Why? Because the school does not allow ANY drugs, regardless of doctors letters or parents instructions. My older daughter also is asthmatic, yet I had to complain to civil court to order the school to allow her puffer to remain on her person, otherwise school policy is for puffers, et al, to be retained at the nurses station. Her doctor wrote a letter stating she needed the puffer on her person as she would be in danger even from the 3 or 4 minute wait for the puffer to be retrieved, yet the school still stood by its policy. Hence the court order.

This is in Australia where we, as yet, have no official ZT as a government policy, just some staff scared of liability if normal activities are allowed to continue regarding OCT/prescribed drugs.

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Good for you to force the issue on the "puffer" (inhaler, in the U.S.) Children have died at school because of this idiotic policy. This is no "theory", no "scenario": we have dead bodies. That the paranoia over "drugs!!!" can lead to school officials condemning students to death is such an outrage that I can't see straight. And is a perfect example of when schools should be sued, with part of the proceeds used for publicity to stop other schools from doing it too. -rc

Posted by Laura, Cumming, Georgia on July 17, 2008:

Regarding the inhaler/puffer comment, in the United States, schools are required to abide not only by the IDEA, but also Section 504. Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Section 504 ensures that the child with a disability has equal access to an education. The child may receive accommodations and modifications. This is not like an IEP mandated by the IDEA. Children with physical disabilities (Down's Syndrome, Blind, Deaf, Asthma, Allergies, etc.) must be accommodated, even if their disability "does not substantially affect their ability to learn in a standard classroom setting."

A rescue inhaler definitely applies here. In a peanut allergy case that the school tried to state was not covered under Section 504 or IDEA, the Office of Civil Rights issued the following in an Resolution/Closure Letter, explaining that when "a school division's decision that a student is ineligible for Section 504 services could result in death or serious illness, there is a basis for . . . 'extraordinary circumstances' . . .".

Thought you might like to know. Unfortunately, knowing the law is necessary when you have a child with disabilities, and your readers might want to study what they can even if their child does not have a disability, because that could change in an instant.

---

Things have improved, but not everywhere: the American Lung Association's American Lung Association Action Network reports that 30 states now have laws in place requiring schools to allow kids to carry their inhalers. That means 20 do not.

I'm not at all surprised that there are some federal laws which can be interpreted to say that students must be allowed to carry life-saving medication on their person. I am also not at all surprised that there are schools which choose not to interpret those laws, or any other laws, in a totally different way. -rc

Posted by Neil, UK on July 17, 2008:

There's so much to be horrified at in this case, yet one detail strikes me (and yes, I know I'm not the first to comment on this):

"he did not think the strip search was a big deal because they did not find anything,"

Has the Principal admitted that he said that? It seems to be synonymous with "we would only have been wrong to violate a student's rights if they were guilty of what we accused them of." If so, he's managed to find a way to make ZT even more nonsensical and unjust.

All I know for a fact is, it's in Savana's sworn affidavit. Your analysis of the concept seems correct to me. -rc

Posted by Scott, in Killeen, TX on July 18, 2008:

Robert, I find it disturbing that mere school officials think that they can override a doctor's judgment in his own field of expertise. I suspect that their own lawyer does not know that they are ignoring doctor orders. I'd expect that to put them in the position of practicing medicine without a license. Maybe your lawyer should inform the school lawyer of what the school officials have been up to. I'm sure that you can find documentation of the deaths mentioned by Randy, and I'm sure that your lawyer can document the wrongful death cases lost (and the money amounts involved) by people who wanted to protect other people from their own critically-important drugs.

3-4 minutes? Really? The nurse never needs to spend long minutes making offerings to the porcelain god (down the hall, of course), never drops the keys (which immediately slide to the least-accessible spot on the floor), never has a twisted ankle, never has a student having seizures in his/her office, never goes to the cafeteria for lunch, and so forth? That's 3-4 minutes only under ideal circumstances, and only a fool expects ideal circumstances.

Randy, don't forget that the US consists of more than just the 50 states.

Posted by Stephanie M, Virginia Beach, VA on July 18, 2008:

This is outrageous - as the parent of a 4 year old I am becoming more and more convinced that we will have to come up with the money for private school. If someone ever did that to my child...well let's just say that I would likely have to leave the state for a few months to prevent inflicting bodily injury on the people that ordered and conducted the search.

13 is the worst possible age for something like this to happen - with the body image issues of girls that age and possible embarrassment of changes her body was going through, this must have been extremely traumatic. The administrator involved needs to be removed from his position and if I were a parent in the school district, I would insist upon it.

Thank you for the insight - I now know that if my child does go to a public school, I will draft a preemptive letter that they will be sued and that I will file charges for battery and some form of child abuse if my son is ever subjected to a search such as this. I'm not sure if the charges would stick, but I would at least make an effort to pursue it criminally and civilly.

Thank you for this important article!

Posted by Sara, LA on July 18, 2008:

The 9th Circuit is the same court that ruled that parents lose all rights to their children and what is taught to them the second they enter the school room door. It does not surprise me that they came so close in their verdict.

These stories are not uncommon. Why do people continue to send their children to public institutions?

---

Because they consider them "free", and can't afford private ones. As time goes by, I think parents will start demanding more common sense from the institutions they pay for with their tax dollars. -rc

Posted by Rachel, California on July 18, 2008:

When I was in 9th or 10th grade I was taking some antibiotics, and I attempted to comply with the clear school policy that stated that all prescription drugs brought to school needed to be deposited for safekeeping with the school nurse.

I went to the nurse's office before homeroom and discovered that she didn't arrive for the day until 10 am.

When I finally got in to see her a few hours later, she didn't understand why I wanted her to hold onto my pill bottle. "Does it need to be refrigerated?" she asked. She told me to ignore the school policy and just keep the pill bottle in my purse.

I suspect that there are lots of schools in this country where the official policies don't match up with the infrastructure available to kids who *want* to abide by them.

Posted by Casey, Chicago on July 18, 2008:

That's insane. A thirteen-year-old girl would be... a seventh-grader? -shakes head-

Well, at least those events have paved the way for a better ruling in the future.

Posted by Ernest Junee, Australia on July 18, 2008:

If this had been done to my child, my first reaction would have been to charge the adults involved with assault. Assault does NOT (in most jurisdictions) require actual contact, but simply the threat while in a position to carry out that threat. Clearly the girl felt threatened by orders to remove her clothes, something that should not be permitted without a clear parental or court authority. Even known criminals can't be strip searched without a court order, so why can these people do it. I hope they bust the school district wide open. I also hope they've sued the individuals as individuals as well.

Posted by Eric,Tacoma, Washington on July 18, 2008:

If something like this would have occurred when I went to school, some parent (most likely my own) would have shot the violators and nothing would have been said about it. It is truly a sad state of affairs when judges legislating from the bench can not even make a legitimate decision based on law. The judges should be impeached, the school officials hung, and the lawyers defending this action locked up at best.

Posted by Phil from Melbourne, Australia on July 19, 2008:

If this happened in Australia, the most likely scenario is that the girl's father would belt shit out of the principal, get charged with assault be then be let off with a good behavior bond. The principal would probably be suspended and charged under anti pedophile laws.

We've imported a lot of stuff from the US, but I hope ZT never becomes one of them. The ZT stories are incredible. They just so totally lack common sense.

Posted by Kent, Denmark on July 19, 2008:

This is an appalling story to read, and it strengthens me belief that the American judicial system has to changed, drastically.

The legal system is slow, and there are so many loopholes and ways to get a case dismissed or retried that it causes massive emotional stress for the weaker parties involved.

The whole patent system is laughable, the ZT policies are simply astounding, and the civil liberty act sounds like something from communist Russia or china.

1 Million people on the terrorist watch list?!

I personally think that the best thing that could happen for USA is if someone went and burned the constitution, and then got someone from Canada or one of the Scandinavian countries to write a new one.... or for irony, let Japan do it :) But I'm pretty sure that is an appalling thought to most Americans, who would think I'm a terrorist for just suggesting it.

Posted by David, Sevenoaks UK on July 19, 2008:

Having removed her clothes surely the school officials should have ensured that the girl was prosecuted for indecent exposure? If we are to have zero tolerance let us at least be consistent and apply it to everything.

If it were my daughter I would probably be serving a sentence for murder or GBH.

Posted by Patty, San Antonio on July 19, 2008:

"they believe that the individuals named in the suit (the vice principal, his assistant, and the school nurse) are entitled to a qualified immunity from liability, essentially because the law wasn't clear enough for them to understand."

WHAT??? It's their jobs to know and understand the laws pertinent to their work; if they don't "get it" they need to figure it out with the help of their school district's attorneys before they go trying to enforce it.

Posted by Elizabeth, N.J. on July 19, 2008:

What was done to that child was sexual assault, plain and simple. They ran with a 'tip' and took it to the most extreme and I bet dollars to donuts they were looking at her and not for the damned pills. She will be forever scarred by this and the two who did it will never really get punished for it. ZT has become a way for pervs to use the current national mood to their advantage and of course, no one is really looking out for the kids in all this, now are they?

All they want is to be politically correct, the rights and safety of the little ones be damned.

Posted by Marcy, Michigan on July 19, 2008:

Sara in LA and others who have questioned why you would ever send your child to a public school--

Please don't lump all public institutions together. As a public school teacher, I am equally disturbed and offended about what has happened here, as I am often when Randy runs a ZT story. As someone who works in a public school every day, and has the common sense to know that these policies are ridiculous, I take offense to being lumped in with these people.

You should choose your child's school carefully depending on their policies, not just assume that the local public school has poor policies like this, or pre-emptively threaten to sue them. Frequently, parents see school as daycare, and don't pause to think about anything beyond that. I am amazed at the lack of thought that some parents put into choosing where their child will spend 8 hours a day sometimes. Those parents who are truly involved and concerned not only look into the school's test scores and graduation rates, but the details of their discipline and reward policies. Get to know the people who spend every day with your child. Please don't assume. For all you know, the private school you spend money on may also have ZT policies you disagree with. After you've done the research, send your child to the school that fits your family's beliefs the best. If you disagree with the policies, get involved to change them. I will tell you that in Michigan, we have schools of choice, and parent complaints and threats to put their children in a different school are a very effective means to get administrators to change things, because they don't want to lose the money that goes with the child.

Posted by Guairdean in Texas on July 19, 2008:

With luck, those involved in the search will be charged as sex offenders. Seeing their fellow "educators" (and I use the term loosely) listed as sex offenders will serve as a wakeup call. They need to understand that their power is limited and that there are consequences when they abuse that power.

Posted by Deb, Pennsylvania on July 19, 2008:

Why is this not considered sexual abuse? If this had been my 13 yo daughter, I would have filed a complaint with the police for sexual abuse.

Posted by Karen, Winston, GA on July 19, 2008:

This story and all the comments posted about it are among the top reasons I chose to home school my children. My son has asthma, and we went through the same ordeal about his inhaler that many others have mentioned. His asthma was severe -- he could not wait until his inhaler could be found and brought to him. Thankfully all his school required was a letter from his doctor.

He had other health issues over the years requiring medication and absences from school which brought up another issue: absences were unexcused unless they had a doctor's excuse, period. Nothing else was considered excused. I was supposed to take my children to the doctor for every little thing that kept them home, or it was unexcused. I finally asked the principal who was going to pay for the unnecessary doctor visits, only to get a blank stare, no answer. The pediatrician's office -- and common sense -- tells you to wait and see what happens when a child vomits or has a slight fever -- reasons not to go to school, but often not a reason to head to the doctor's office immediately.

Common sense has all but disappeared from public school. It does not cost much at all to home school, and there are all kinds of groups that offer help to home schooling parents. If public school is not an option and private school is too expensive, it is worth checking into. My son graduated last year, and took the GED just to have it, even though it is not necessary and his scores were extremely high. Out of 800, he scored 799 in math, and almost as high (790's) in all other categories. Not bad, considering 420 out of 800 is passing.

Posted by Mac, Michicag on July 19, 2008:

If I had been strip searched in school my parents would have been terribly upset with me if I did not physically resist.
Being forced to disrobe, pray to heathen gods and avow things I did not believe were understood to merit resistance to the point of physical violence. I was also taught how to resist -- to the point that anytime after I was about eleven years old you'd risk lasting disfigurement or disability to lay your grubby little hands on me. It's called self defense and is still a reasonable response to assault.

Posted by John, Allentown, PA on July 19, 2008:

Perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems to me there's another option here that everyone's missing.

Complain to the school board, and if that doesn't work, VOTE THE BUMS OUT. Even better, run for school board yourself.

To a certain extent, we're getting what we deserve through our own inattention to what our elected officials are doing.

Posted by Jenna, Michigan on July 19, 2008:

I went to Catholic school for 8 years and believe me, they are not immune to ZT and overall stupidity. They also are not immune to mistreating children.

We had nuns who would grab children by the shoulders and slam them against a wall for making noise in the hallway. Also, I had severe excema and despite several doctors notes to the teacher saying it was genetic and not contagious, one teacher told the other children to stay away from me so as not to catch it.

I also had a teacher take me into the boiler room to strip search me because (as was explained much later) they suspected that the discoloration of my skin (caused by my skin disease) might be bruising due to child abuse.

Posted by Jay, LA on July 19, 2008:

To Kent in Denmark,

The constitution is not the problem, the idiots who think their job is to "interpret" it are. The constitution is clear as day. These cabbage headed idiots on a power trip are the ones who need an education.

Posted by Phil, New Hampshire on July 19, 2008:

John of Allentown pointed out that they should vote the bums out, but school administrators usually have employment contracts; even when there is egregious behavior, it can still take months to get rid of them. Perhaps the thing to do is get elected to the school board and propose a change to employment contracts that allows for a lowering of salary when an official chooses to act without thinking. If I don't do the job I'm paid to perform, I don't get paid. Why should school officials be any different?

Posted by Jacques - Omaha on July 19, 2008:

The reason that these "administrators" will never be charged with child abuse is simple:

They're all part and parcel of "The System."

And "The System" takes care of and protects their own.

They are all but immune from the misdirected fury of the law - a law which more and more treats average citizens as serfs - without rights, without recourse, and without even the semblance of justice.

It will get much worse before it gets any better. (Hey - why do you think the government is building (through Halliburton) those huge detention camps in the USA for? It sure ain't for - as the officials say - the "event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the United States..."

They're made to house you and me - should we serfs ever get a bellyfull and start demanding change.

It's time to go, while the going is still possible.

Posted by Anna, Connecticut on July 19, 2008:

I'm surprised no one has commented on one other egregious injustice in this case: Why was Savanna fully strip searched, but not the other two students involved? Why was the boy not strip searched AT ALL??? Granted they already KNEW he had ibuprofen on him, but isn't the so-called motive behind these acts that they are fighting a greater war on drugs? Why didn't they search for more?

Seems to me there's also discrimination at hand, along with many, many other things.

Posted by pete maryland on July 20, 2008:

This better never happen to one of mine, or these ego tripping tyrants and their supporters all better go into hiding far far away. This country and its courts is run by and populated with a huge contingent of loony piggy stupid borderline personality disordered scumbags, and when it comes to my kids and grandkids, I'll mete out the justice/education (-as in, see how you like it) timely, to be sure it's done.

Posted by John Cavanagh, Dungloe, Donegal on July 20, 2008:

I live in Ireland and any Americans I have met have seemed reasonable and normal people but I'm beginning to doubt this. If this case had happened in the UK or Ireland I think the outcome would have been different. Not only would the head have been charged in court but so would the two people who carried out his instructions. The plea, "I was only carrying out orders", failed in Nuremberg many years ago. "The wording of the law was too obscure" would not hold water. The rule here is that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Anyone who thinks that stripping a 13 year old girl naked is lawful should not be allowed near a school or any other contact with children.

Why are these people allowed to carry on doing these things. Not to put too fine a point on it, why are Americans so stupid that they allow these things to happen?

I just heard on the radio that Bush thinks waterboarding is not torture. America I despair for you.

---

Most Americans are indeed reasonable and normal. But most don't want to make a fuss, so a minority run roughshod over them. But another minority sees the harm and speaks out. Not just me, but brave people like Savana Redding and her parents. My goal is to get the silent majority riled up enough to actually do something about all of this. I've been fighting it for more than 11 years now, and I still have work to do. -rc

Posted by Rick Concord,CA on July 20, 2008:

The school systems today are bureaucracies. They have to be. They are under State control for funding and following whatever "laws" the State deems to apply. Also Federal control for funding, etc. Added are the local school boards populated by petty politicians working harder to keep their names in the paper than actually trying to make the "system" function. All of these controlling entities are not there for the benefit of the students. Rather, the students are simply cannon fodder to promote political agendas all all the levels mentioned above. As long as the citizens, parents and non-parents alike pay no attention to the egregious actions by the politicians, there will be no change. The unwritten policy will continue to be "ask NOT what I can do for the schools and students, but rather asl what the schools and students can do for ME". Sorry, JFK.

Posted by Sarah, Australia on July 20, 2008:

I'm a teen in high school in Australia, and i think this case (as with most ZT cases) was ridiculous, on many counts.

I get VERY bad menstrual cramps every month, and i have to take pills every 3 hours from the second it starts, or i literally cannot move. I have 2 types of pills (that i can take together to work faster) in my school bag at all times, and another in my handbag. I usually take a couple days off school per month anyway, when i take the pills even an hour too late and the pain starts. If they had this ZT policy in my school, i would be off school for more than a week per month, which is ridiculous. They are PAIN PILLS people! Not even prescription, but over-the-counter pain pills! Of course, strip-search us to make sure we don't get students or ourselves hurt with these pills, oh, i forget, i'll be hurting if i DON'T have them! This policy should be refined allow for common sense, or banned altogether...

May i also say that if any school official tried to make me strip, they would be suffering not-so-polite refusal and may be nursing broken bones if they tried to force me. [They would also probably get arrested, my Dad is a cop :)] People say that kids these days are too lax about authority? I say, go for kids! We should be able to stand up for ourselves, and for our rights. We should KNOW what is wrong for people to do to us, and KNOW that we can refuse, and NOT have to worry about the consequences of denying a strip search!

Lastly, the women involved in the actual searching should be locked up for life (hello, you CAN refuse to do something wrong, even if ordered by a superior, so they are just as wrong) and the principal should be banned from ever working near children, locked up, and maybe be castrated so that he doesn't get the urge to make girls strip again.

Randy, thank you for your efforts in the war on ZT. [By the way, shouldn't pencils be banned? i mean, you can stab people with them. And sharpeners have little blades in them! evil! Oh, and chairs can be thrown at people, so we should just sit on the floor. In fact, lets get rid of classrooms altogether and learn sitting on the football fields. But watch out for kids with BLADES of grass! This is what ZT is getting reduced to: War on EVERYTHING.) Anyway, please keep it up Randy, and hopefully ZT can get banned in America, and hopefully it never comes to Australia! If you ever need help, just ask. :)

Posted by Boris, Phoenix, AZ on July 20, 2008:

If you want to stop ZT (and what "normal" person does not), then just require ALL school personnel to be under the very same ZT policy as the students. No excuses accepted for the violation of ANY rule. That would include the school board and any other elected official who has any authority directly or indirectly over schools.

ZT will be totally dead within a year or less.

---

That's the beauty of the system: they're exempt, and there's no way they'd let that change. Voters need to insist on it. -rc

Posted by Lynne, WI on July 20, 2008:

For those who might want to give the school district an earful about what they've done to Ms. Redding...:

[online and mail addresses deleted]

Also, this case is referenced in Wikipedia! Check under the school district or town name.

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No: do not write the school! Please think first! It is a waste to abuse the school district in this case. Mad? Good! WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN, not the school!

Demand that schools all schools have reasonable rules. Demand that zero tolerance be stopped. Demand common sense. Writing private letters of abuse won't help. Writing to lawmakers will -- but only if enough of us do it. -rc

Posted by Mark, TX on July 20, 2008:

Exactly right, Boris. Starting with zero tolerance about sexually mistreating a child!!! "Oh, you stripped her? Nuh nuh nuh, I don't want to hear any thing about drugs or reasons or extenuating circumstances -- off to the sex offender registry with you!"

These administrators seem like the typical pissant bully who exploits the slightest modicum of power they might receive. You know the type -- give them a clipboard or a whistle and it goes straight to their heads, throwing their weight around in ridiculous ways just because they think they can.

The thing that frightens me is that they indeed can! I am frightened at what is happening to the American spirit. Instead of being taught to be independent, free, and self-sufficient, our children are being taught to collapse and submit in the face of even the faintest perceived authority, no matter how ridiculously and outrageously applied. No resistance, no objection, not even any sense of self-preservation.

This is not to criticize the victim in this or any other case, but rather to express my concern over the system and what fundamental principles the system is striving to instill in our children. I fear a future society in which the masses have been trained to abdicate all power to an elite few who are themselves effectively exempt from the law.

This last part is particularly poignant: all too frequently it seems that the people who most eagerly enforce Zero Tolerance (ie, embrace Zero Thought) turn out to be the biggest hypocrites of the first order. In short, they abuse their power precisely *because* they narcissistically view themselves as special and unique, above the very rules they so enjoy applying to everybody else.

For the poster who criticized the Constitution, I urge you to read the document if you have not done so, as I believe you will find that it is this very Zero Tolerance-type situation that its framers feared most. The Constitution stands for individuality, personal responsibility, and inherent skepticism of power. That theme runs strongly throughout. In my opinion most "problems" with the Constitution have nothing to do with the Constitution itself but rather the deliberate and concerted effort distort and parse words to make it seem as though it says things it doesn't. As indicated by another poster, the text itself is crystal clear, and it is only through extreme contortions of language and common sense that inconvenient statements in the supreme law of the land can be "interpreted" so as to be circumvented. Nevertheless, despite efforts to manipulate it remains the main obstacle to the Zero Tolerance totalitarian mindset. It is for this reason that many in America fear any major tweaking or especially revocation of this document. It's not that anybody believes that the document is perfect, but rather that we fear that the same people who are pushing Zero Tolerance and all the other such associated nonsense will be the ones doing the rewriting -- and this fear is true on both sides of the political aisle, since politicians, judges, administrators, etc. on both sides are guilty of these kinds of abuses of power for the good of all "the little people".

Posted by Scuzz-Canada, Eh? on July 21, 2008:

Seems to me that kids need to learn not only to say NO to drugs, but to say a very loud and heartfelt NO to stupid rules and the administrators of such.

She would have been much better off to put up a fight.
She was neither arrested, nor was there a search warrant presented.

This was in no way a legal proceeding.

These people seem to think that just because a child is in "their" building, that they can do anything they want.

Posted by Peter - England on July 21, 2008:

Had this happened in the UK, under our Law the people ordering and those carrying out the strip search would have been immediately arrested and held in prison pending trial for child molestation.

On the evidence given by the child Savannah, all of the teachers involved would have been imprisoned by the Criminal Court; they would have been dismissed from their jobs, and they would have been placed on the Sex Offenders Register for the rest of their lives, and would have to report to the authorities every time they moved house, and would not have been allowed anywhere near children in the future.

In some cases, this last restriction has meant that, if they live near a school, they would have been forced to sell their house and move to somewhere that was NOT near a school.

They could also have been sued in the Civil Court for Damages.

I love all things American, and think that it is a great country, but unfortunately, some of the people in charge are complete morons.

As you now have approval to carry arms in all states, I damn well know what I would be doing if these paedophiles had ordered my 13 year old daughter to strip.

Posted by Scott, in Killeen, TX on July 21, 2008:

Randy, you wrote: "... WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN ...".

People who want to write should use letter and paper; any fool can write email, and many do; it's called spam, and politicians are likely to pay as much attention as you hopefully do. Anyone on the planet can send email, and they have no way of knowing who sent it. Their duty is to their own constituents. With "snail" mail, they can see where it came from, and they can see that someone went to a bit of effort to send it, as opposed to the almost non-existent effort that it takes to send an email. Ditto for form letters; spend some effort to make your letter(s) unique.

---

Very good points all. -rc

Posted by Nick, Washington State on July 23, 2008:

After reading the article and all of the comments, it seems to me that what is ultimately lacking in the school systems is any form of oversight on behalf of the students and parents. When a criminal is arrested, the police are REQUIRED to advise the suspect that he does not need to say anything, and may consult an attorney, even if that means the court has to provide an attorney. However, when Savana is being stripped by school officials, who is there to look out for her rights, if the school won't?

It's sad to have to resort to this, but I propose a new position within the school districts: Student Advocate. This position should be paid from the district's budget (they are, after all doing part of the school's job for them), but should be an elected official who reports and answers to the parents/voters via school board, PTA, etc., and who can not be fired without legal proceedings. Unlike a traditional school board member, this position would be a full time position charged with auditing all disciplinary actions issued by the schools; ensuring compliance with the SPIRIT of school policies (thus providing checks and balances for overzealous ZT practitioners); and perhaps most importantly, being on call to respond immediately if a student facing severe discipline (long suspension/expulsion) or questionable action (like Savana) requests consultation with an advocate.

One might say that this is the parents' job, but the advocate would have a few advantages: 1) Unfortunately, there will always be cases where even the best parent may be unreachable; 2) The student may prefer not to have their parents directly involved in some cases; and 3) The school can't ignore the advocate like they may attempt to do with parents. In fact, if the school cannot reach an agreement with the advocate, prompt, impartial arbitration should be mandated. And if the school attempts to circumvent the advocate in any way, not only would they have violated the law, but they give the parents an extreme bit of leverage in civil proceedings.

Perhaps, hopefully, with this type of oversight, schools would be forced to ask themselves, "Would the advocate buy this?" And over time, they might cease to expel students who forgot to remove the Tylenol or Swiss Army knife from their bag on Monday morning, and stick to punishments that actually fit the crime.

Posted by John, Michigan on July 24, 2008:

Savannah seems to be doing okay (okay, as much as you can tell from her 8 seconds in the clip below). The school superintendent is still a chowderhead, saying the same things as five years ago.

Posted by Mia, Victoria, BC, Canada on July 26, 2008:

I would like to add something that has not been directly noted in the article or the comments to date, though there have been hints of it.

The school officials said that the strip search was necessary because Savana (Savannah? I see both spellings here) had prescription drugs that she might hypothetically be giving to other students. The implication is that it is more necessary to protect children against prescription than OTC drugs. Yet drugs are presumably prescribed because they are needed.

Several other commenters have made the point that without their asthma rescue inhalers, severely asthmatic children may die; that's the obvious example. Another example, of course, is antibiotics; if they're not taken at reasonably regular intervals, they may not work, and the bacteria could develop a resistance to them. Even painkillers such as ibuprofen, the drug in question here, may make the difference between being able to function in school and being incapacitated.

It's not life-threatening to be without a painkiller, no, but wait till you have a migraine or severe menstrual cramps or -- as Randy and one commenter mentioned -- growing pains before you condemn them as unnecessary. I have to say I am very tempted to resent anyone who has been so lucky as to not have frequent severe pain and therefore blithely boasts of never taking drugs. But then, I'm not one of those lucky ones.

At 55, I would likely endure a strip-search now with no emotional scarring whatsoever. No, I wouldn't appreciate it and I don't want one, but I'd probably be okay. But when I was 13? Unlikely. What a way to start a girl's adolescence.

---

The correct spelling of her name is Savana -- I typo'd it when I put it in the title, and it'd take some programming to make the URL work if I changed it, and I haven't gotten to that yet. Just too much to do right now...! -rc

Posted by Beamer, Toronto on July 26, 2008:

What I don't get is that a school employee of any kind can strip search anyone ever. Does this mean I can strip search a person who comes to my house if I "believe" they have something unlawful on them?? I was brought up to believe that we had rules about such things and that if you see a crime or suspect a wrong that there were folks you could call for that.

I wonder what happened to the "snitches"? I'm thinking they should be next in line for civil action, as they started this train rolling.

If a school believes an "evil-doer" is attempting entrance, they can repel them. Searching back packs etc is a sad fact these days but searching down to the skin? OY!

That said, I'm kind of glad they Didn't call the cops as that may have been worse for the girl. (You have done stories where the cops acted a bit extremely.)

Posted by Bronwyn, Norfolk, VA on July 26, 2008:

I had Advil confiscated from me once a couple of years ago -- a travel-sized tube that had only held ten pills when it was full, five or six of which I had taken already -- because I had forgotten to remove it from my purse after a class trip to France. The security guard was quite condescending about it, but at least I wasn't forced to strip to prove I wasn't smuggling something like Motrin or Midol too. Then again, I weigh over two hundred pounds; doubtless there was the clear implication that nobody wants to see that.

But at the same time...as a matter of fact, it may have been during that same search, or maybe it was just the same room (the security guards always seemed to do "random" searches while my class was in that particular classroom). One of the guards found a bottle of prescription pills and loudly demanded, "Whose pills are these?" He asked the question five or six times as we tried to tell him, then finally heard us when we told him the name of the student who owned them. (The student in question was out of the room, supposedly using the bathroom.) The guard said, "Oh, okay," put the pills back on the desk, and moved on to the next student. We griped about that for a while.

I hope she wins her court case. I'll have to start following it...

Posted by Pierre, Canada on July 26, 2008:

It seems to be, that we have gone overboard on this drug thing....

Perhaps, if people are stupid enough to take drugs for recreation, as opposed to taking prescriptions for a needed condition.... Then we should just ignore them, and let then take the drugs. In fact, let them take as much as they want, and as quickly as they want. Keep it simple: just give the stuff to them.

It is likely they come from the shallow end of the gene pool, anyway. Yes, they may harm or kill themselves. But the time, effort, resources, money, etc that we are spending to protect these ingrates could be put to better uses. I resent paying high taxes, and seeing them spent uselessly and ineffectively, to "protect people from themselves"...

The law does a better job of protecting the vandals who broke into my car, looking for, I presume, money, to buy drugs, than it does in being of any use to me. Sad.

---

I discussed this point in my blog in "War on Drugs". -rc

Posted by Neil, UK on July 27, 2008:

Mia, the point about prescription drugs is that they should only be used by those to whom they were prescribed; the "charge" against Savana was distributing them as well as having them in her possession, which would have been contrary to any doctor's instruction had it been true.

Of course, this point is entirely negated in this case because the school, we are told, applied ZT to all drugs. It seems that merely mentioned the prescription aspect later as another excuse for their indefensible actions.

Posted by Luke in DC on July 29, 2008:

I would say this is unbelievable but then I'm a regular True reader.

I don't think the law should have shielded those who conducted the search. The phrase, "we were only following orders" comes to mind. A soldier is required to refuse an unjust order. A school nurse & an assistant should have the common sense to do the same. My response to the vice principal would have been, "call her parents or the police because I'm not searching her." The reality is, in order for a child to relieve menstrual cramps at school, they must:

1. Have a doctor prescribe medication for them
2. Fill out forms in triplicate for the school
3. Have to go to the school nurse to administer said drug
4. Can only go at a particular time (ie lunch)
5. Must take the pill on a daily basis in order for the school nurse to be able to administer them.

I know this because my son used to take medication for asthma and it was painful trying to get the school to administer it. We actually had to threaten a school Vice Principal with a lawsuit because he took my child's inhaler (ZT at work again). He claimed that kids were using inhalers to huff glue. I told him if my child had an asthma attack due to not having his inhaler on him because of the vice principal, not only would I sue him out of existence but I would come by the school with a baseball bat and cause him grievous bodily injury.

We took away the ability of a school nurse to actually perform nursing duties like administer pain relief or give a child something more than a band-aid for fear of getting sued. If we allowed nurses to actually be nurses, we wouldn't have this problem. Girls could just pop into the nurses office, get some motrin and head back to class.

---

The procedure you describe may be exact for your particular school district, but isn't necessarily what other districts follow. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on July 29, 2008:

I graduated high school in 1970. Although these days it's called Zero Tolerance, it is nothing new, just a different label for mental laziness. As a child of a military family, I attended elementary and high school in several different states, and in every one, I saw the same lack of rational thought. Even then, it was plainly visible that school was never an institution of education, but simply an institution of government control over families. As a father, myself, whose children have attended different schools in various states and cities, I've found nothing to change my impression of the so-called 'educational' system. School employees, and school authorities, have always suffered from a megalomaniacal belief that they KNOW what is best for children, for the parents of children, and for society as a whole, simply because they spent some money to attend college for awhile, and now they're Educated Idiots. And I've mentioned before that the School Systems are nothing more than a 4th Branch of Government insulated from the Checks & Balances of the other three. Even a successful lawsuit can easily be dismissed as a 'miscarriage of justice which is all too common these days'.

For those who insist we not denigrate the system as a whole on the basis of boneheaded decisions of a few, I reply that the system as a whole is the very basis of those boneheaded decisions. Only the most incredible incidents make the news, and then are shortly forgotten, while people reassure themselves that it doesn't happen in THEIR hometowns.

Randy, I applaud your attempts to keep the current ludicrous concept of Zero Tolerance in the forethoughts of your readers, but I myself have long since lost faith of any possibility for change. The reason is due to 1) the lifelong evidence of its pervasiveness, and 2) I'm convinced that it's a human failing that can never be removed from the people's psyche. It's only a matter of WHICH person's Zero Tolerance decision is offensive to WHICH person's sensibilities.

Posted by Kia, MA on August 1, 2008:

I attend private school. I'm not entirely certain of the policies, but I know you can at least get suspended for having your own. Which is ridiculous -- the Lower School was done away with decades ago, leaving us with no one younger than ninth grade. And this policy holds true even after you turn eighteen -- you still need a parent or legal guardian's permission to take any sort of med. They don't search us, though. Given the concentration of socially conscious free thinkers (we're somewhat known for it), I doubt they'd be able to. We all know our Constitutional rights.

However, I don't have to justify going to see the nurse at whatever point during the day. I just need to ask -- and the nurse can give me Advil if I ask for it. He will even give it to me preventatively -- in fact, he was the one who suggested that I come in the morning before the cramps start to get it preventatively. I only keep a dose or two for those little gaps where he's not available -- on his lunch break or before he opens for the day. My summer camp works the same way -- parents fill out a form beforehand saying what I can and can't be given, and as long as I can be given it and it makes logical sense, I will be given it. (And I've never had their estimation of "logical sense" disagree with mine. They use their judgement of what to give me.)

Posted by Karl Lembke on August 4, 2008:

There have been a few comments to this post saying things like "don't judge all schools by these few incidents."

Well, that is certainly reasonable, and most sensible.

However, if I chose to approach this from a "zero tolerance" perspective, then I would most certainly hold all schools responsible for these isolated incidents, without regard to what is reasonable or sensible.

I say, zero tolerance for "zero tolerance"!

Posted by Marti from MN on September 17, 2008:

Two things: one, menstrual cramps are indeed a barrier to education, and those who have them (and in many cultures are considered mature enough to be married with their own children by reason of this same biological function) know how to administer an appropriate dose when needed. Here's a solution, if administrators are that concerned: Student's parents provide the school with a bottle of the preferred medicine. Maybe even a doctor's note (which at this point, let's face it, is nothing more than a character reference, as we are talking about an OTC drug). Student picks the medicine up at the nurse's office before classes begin on the days she thinks she might need it (mid-day, if it's a "surprise visit"). Student (along with her parents) is informed, in a written consent-to-consequences form, that she will be punished in specific ways if she violates school policy by bringing her own medicine, sharing with other students, etc.

Let's face it, schools do have a legitimate concern about kids safety and also parents overly-litigious natures. My mother, who (as a well-informed teen who carried my own ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, and generic "Benadryl" to school with me at various times when needed) lectured me constantly about not keeping drugs that looked alike in the same bag or bottle, and definitely not sharing, even if it was a friend -- had a very scary experience one day. A friend was allergic to aspirin (asthmatic reaction), but had a nasty headache. My mother offered her a generic "Tylenol" on the way to a luncheon. About an hour later...yep, you guessed it, severe (what looked like) asthmatic reaction, winding the friend up in the hospital. My mother was sick with worry and guilt -- she was certain she'd mistakenly given her friend aspirin, that she'd mistaken what was in the little pill-pouch.

Now, it didn't turn out to be the medicine (which actually was acetaminophen -- the ER doctor took one look at one of the remaining pills and absolved my mother); the friend had developed an allergy to shrimp, which she'd eaten in abundance.

The point is, if that had happened to a litigious person, a lawyer could have tried to claim contributory factors resulting from what might have been an aspirin. If it had been a school setting, the school would have been at fault, and even if the case was found in favor of the school, the cost of the trial (not to mention the publicity) could have hurt the school system badly.

So, yes, be cautious. Be overly cautious, even. But when a student has a reasonable request for accommodation, don't shout ZT -- it's pathetic and simple-minded. Kids have to become adults at some point. Let them take the scary baby-steps of it in a safe environment...and when they (inevitably) screw it up, help them learn from the mistake with sensible punishment -- whatever happened to helping the teachers perform some incredibly tedious task? Automatic suspension punishes the kid's future, not the immediate wrong-doing. Make the kid help out in the special needs classrooms, and see kids who are struggling to learn how *not* to break the rules.

I hope I haven't reiterated what others have said too much -- there were a *lot* of posts to go through, and I'll admit I gave up!

Posted by Allan, Rancho Cucamonga on December 24, 2008:

Has there been any update on this case, since this story was posted last July? Specifically, has a court date been set?

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I haven't seen any updates on the case so far. -rc

Posted by C in Rochester on January 19, 2009:

I laud your efforts, but the real problem with zero tolerance is that there is no alternative. If you presume to inject judgment, then you'll most certainly be accused of bias because those who're disciplined probably won't reflect fairly vis-a-vis their gender or racial representation as a percentage of the student body. That's what we've seen in the past. The only thing schools CAN do is to treat every case the same. We've seen this same problem with nail-clippers and other "weapons" in the schools. It' a shame.

---

We pay our school administrators to have judgment and discretion. If they're not going to exercise it, then we need to not bother with them getting graduate degrees, and reduce their salaries to the level of the clerks they're acting like lately. Last, I hope you are ZT'd yourself so you can fully understand how ridiculous and unreasonable it is. -rc

Posted by Rafe, London UK on March 28, 2009:

If drugs for treatment of menstrual problems are too dangerous to be allowed in that school, then surely nobody should be allowed to take them into that school.

That principal would presumably not allow a teacher to bring heroin into the school, so should equally not allow any teacher to bring drugs for treatment of menstrual problems into school.

Any claim that teachers are immune to this could be quickly sorted with a few headlines in the local paper along the lines of TEACHER TAKES FORBIDDEN DANGEROUS DRUGS TO SCHOOL! PRINCIPAL REFUSES TO ACT!

Re the comments about pupils not being allowed to carry inhalers even when a delay of a few minutes would be dangerous: This is perfectly simple to solve.

The principal has decreed that it is dangerous for the pupil to carry the inhaler. The doctor has given a written opinion that the inhaler must be immediately available. The answer is obvious. The school must ensure that a trained, medically qualified adult must follow the child everywhere, carrying the inhaler. The adult must never leave the child alone even for a moment. If they have to go elsewhere they must provide a suitable substitute first. Failure to do this will amount to reckless endangerment of the child's life, and should be punished accordingly.

Randy, you say elsewhere in the comments that children have died due to these policies. Do you have a link to a list of all the dead children and the circumstances of their deaths? Every school principal who tries to implement these policies should be directed to such a list. Any later claim on their part to not have known of the dangers can then be punished as perjury.

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There is (unfortunately) no clearinghouse for statistics on who ZT has killed. I wish there was one. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on March 28, 2009:

"We pay our school administrators to have judgment and discretion. If they're not going to exercise it, then we need to not bother with them getting graduate degrees, and reduce their salaries to the level of the clerks they're acting like lately."

Randy, I agree with you completely, but change "school" to "corporate" and you'll see why we're paying CEOs obscene salaries to bankrupt a company and then beg for taxpayer bailout so that they can then reward themselves for bad administration. This is not a diatribe about the current economic situation so much as pointing out that they learned it from SOMEplace, like the educational system.

---

A good point indeed. Today's students, learning under ZT tyranny, are tomorrow's educators, corporate officers, cops, judges, politicians.... What, exactly, are we teaching them? -rc

Posted by Jay from California on March 28, 2009:

I do take Professor Arum's point that school officials should not be subject to litigation, much less liability, in marginal situations. But, (1) as the article notes, this is certainly not a marginal case; and (2) it is frightening to contemplate an environment in which those in charge would not recognize this. Also, (3) we do not see the government extending such deference to the actions of private employers -- who are not even subject to the provisions of the Fourth Amendment. Similarly (4) while dissenting Judge Gould concludes that school officials should receive qualified immunity because "the law heretofore did not give adequate guidance" to them, when a private employer is subject to a class action suit on a novel legal theory and is found to have violated a newly-articulated right the employer is liable to pay even greater penalties (the plaintiffs' legal fees enhanced by a "multiplier") precisely because the case was hard for the plaintiffs to win.

One can hope that Supreme Court review will make some inroads here, and if ever a case presented facts which point in that direction this is it.

Posted by Jeffrey, New Jersey on March 28, 2009:

Here in the State of New Jersey, because of court cases in the past, strip searches of children are not permitted for ANY reason. It doesn't matter if the child is suspected of having ILLEGAL drugs or even an ILLEGAL firearm on their body.

Posted by REWINN, Mercer Island on March 28, 2009:

About contacting your Congresscritter:

A quick phonecall to the LOCAL office (not DC) works best because THERE you're a voter to be courted. Be brief, mention the town you live in, be nice & to the point, then move on so you'll go into the day's tally.

Snail mail: 2nd best; HUGE delays as it works through security means it can't be timely.

Email: as noted, better than nothing but not much cuz it's too easy to do.

======

About school boards & other forms of volunteering:

This is very important. While a school board may not find it easy to fire anyone, it's really the only way to modify ZT in your town (...until the Supremes speak up and even then ... who knows?)

Volunteerism is costly; it takes time and effort. That's part of why it's so valuable. And the benefits are many, if nothing else, you meet interesting people and you can actually get stuff done.

=====

About the crime victim here:

I hope Savana blogs or otherwise writes up her experience now that she is beyond the reach of the abusive vice principal. Alternatively, the girl she gave the ibuprofen to should write what it's like to innocently get her friend in trouble (!surely she did not intend this!) This could be very educational for all children, parents and ... who knows ... maybe even a school official.

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As I read the story, Ms Redding didn't give ibuprofen to anyone; that was a lie told by the girl caught with it to either get Savana in trouble, to protect the actual source, or to remove suspicion from herself. -rc

Posted by Mike - McHenry, IL on March 30, 2009:

The more I read this, the more I'm confused - why was ANY strip search done? As I look at my children, who are approaching their teen years, I find it inconscionable to ask them to submit to a strip search, even if I had to make the request. I understand the whole purpose of the court system is to work out these issues, but I am appalled that it has A) taken 5 years, B) already stated as a matter of record that the search was unjustified, and C) we are still paying our government to talk about it. The end result is (now) a woman with no closure, and a legal process that is feeding on itself at our expense.

If we had to tell the Founding Fathers that their great institution would be debating this issue, I think we would still be a British colony....

Posted by Brandon from South Carolina on March 30, 2009:

I read the story in the Times that you mention in your update, and I noticed the same quote from Arum. Yeah, reasonable people can disagree on damn near anything. Many slaveowners were "reasonable" people. Does that mean they were right in claiming to own human beings? No. Many serial killers are "reasonable" people. Is our criminal justice system flawed in arresting these "reasonable" individuals? No. Maybe he's covering his own tail because he's "strip searched" a student in the past. *fumes* Of course, I'm sure the reason the Times included that quote is that they have to try to be as uninvolved as possible, representing both sides equally... But the fact that he even said that infuriates me.

And the whole thing is outrageous. I was so disgusted by the story... I was sitting at my desk, reading the paper, waiting for my Microeconomics class to start, and I was so angry that I was tearing up. There were tears in my eyes. I can't stand people like this. I'd like to think that if I was, for instance, a superintendent, and this happened, I would do what's right instead of what makes me look better.

That vice principal was wrong, and he needs to pay personally. I don't even think this is zero-tolerance any more. It's an obvious issue of control. He wanted to communicate that he was the one in control of that little girl. Many psychology experts believe that rape is more about conveying dominance than it is about sexual pleasure. They say that's why you hear about heterosexual men raping other men. But that's exactly what happened here, and it's not even too big a jump. Anyone who thinks that this man, if he can even be called that, was right in what he did is a horrible person. I mean it. You are a disgrace to the species. You are a failure as a human being. You're either an apathetic mound of dung (like Richard Arum), or a sensationalist wacko who would do literally anything to keep yourself or other people safe from the rising threat of PRESCRIPTION IBUPROFEN.

With the public outcry that's going to accompany this story being on the FRONT PAGE of the New York Times, there's no way the Supreme Court will rule in the school district's favor, and opponents of ZT will rejoice. Heck, proponents of common sense and of human decency will rejoice. It's just sad that it took this kind of disgraceful activity to come to this.

Posted by wendy, north carolina on March 30, 2009:

I would haved said no i wont get undressed and you cant make me strip. call my mom because if you dont, you can send me home and i promise she will be right up here. call the cops if you think i have drugs on me.

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Easy for us to say, as adults. Hard for her to do, when she was 13 and taught to respect her elders. It's a true trap for a young kid, and disgusting. It's why we MUST teach our kids to say "Call my parents" when they're in trouble. -rc

Posted by John in Pocatello on March 30, 2009:

Unfortunately, the current Supreme Court - which could be called "the Bush court" - is even more right wing than the Nixon court, which gave us such winning decisions as the one that allows law enforcement to confiscate property in drug arrests, AND KEEP IT EVEN IF THE DEFENDANT IS ACQUITTED! I have no difficulty picturing this particular court siding with the School District.

Posted by dennis, san francisco on March 30, 2009:

What has "prescription" ibuprofen got to do with anything? It's twice the strength of over-the-counter ibuprofen and even a school principal knows that you can take two pills as easily as one.

This is part of the War on Drugs?

I think the school principal should buy himself a bottle of ibuprofen and wash the whole thing down with a bottle of port.

Posted by Ed, Pittsburgh on March 31, 2009:

If I had strip-searched my 13-year old daughter, CYF, the local child abuse agency, would have come, taken her away, and locked me up in jail. They would have sent case workers to interview family, school officials, my other children, etc. to dig up dirt on me. They would have subjected me to psychological exams. They would have put my daughter in foster care, and garnished my wages to pay for it. But when government (school) does it, that's apparently okay. Government lawyers defend government workers, and the local child abuse agency takes no interest in the case. Where have they been in all of this?

I agree with the person who likened this to rape. All involved should be held personally accountable, including the adminstrative assistant and school nurse (who should have said "no" to the vice principal). Not only should they be sued, but prosecuted and jailed for rape.

---

Why would these agencies have no interest in the case? All I can think is, these agencies are watching out for each other, counting on the mutual support for every action they take. It's not "agencies protect children", it's "us vs. them" -- the agencies in a "war" (as it's often called) against the people they're supposed to be serving. The same is true for the "war on drugs." -rc

Posted by Ralph NY on March 31, 2009:

As a retired teacher I have been against ZT policies for a long time. This case is beyond egregious. Giving the nurse and the administrative assistant a free pass on this brings back the memories of Nazi soldiers saying they were only following orders during the holocaust and Lt. Calley saying the same during the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. At some point to need to think for yourself and determine if what you are told to do is the right thing to do and if it's not, take a stand and stop it from happening.

Posted by Owen in North Carolina on March 31, 2009:

I hope this gets people aroused. There are not enough parents involved in their child's education. A few years ago, our school Board held a series of meetings for public input and information. When I went to the meeting for my third of the county, I was the public! The irony is that we homeschooled all our children, so I was going as a citizen, not a parent. Zero tolerance does not tolerate contradiction. A new principal in a nearby county was almost prosecuted several years ago. A rusty BB gun was found left on a school bus, and he decided not to call the police. (All firearms must be reported.) Fortunately, allowance was made for his lack of experience and he did not get taken to court. I never saw a report on the gun owner.

Posted by dennis, san francisco on April 1, 2009:

Ralph NY is correct. The excuse that "I was only following orders" is blather. All it means is that instead of being a lone lawbreaker you're part of a gang of lawbreakers.

In a trial, the one who pulls the trigger is usually the one who gets the stiffest sentence.

Posted by Aubrey, Breaux Bridge, LA on April 1, 2009:

While I have always questioned the validity of zero tolerance policies, I had never quite believed that an adult who supposedly cares for children (assumed by their chosen vocation) could be so willing to commit such an egregious act against a child. The nurse who "was just following orders" was just as responsible as the principal who gave them. As an adult...and a rather introverted one at that, I couldn't imagine myself following such orders. Employment be damned, I would have been the first on the phone with the girl's parents and local law enforcement. All of the adults who participated in the humiliation of that poor girl need some of your "Get Out of Hell Free" cards...a whole stack of them for that single incident. I hope to God that I will never be faced with a situation like that with my own children...I'd need a stack of the cards for myself after I got through with those people.

Posted by Ed from Richmondville, NY on April 2, 2009:

When I took my Education Law class from my grad degree in 1991 from SUNY Albany we told told one thing to ALWAYS remember about searches: WE ARE NOT THE POLICE! Police do searches, school administrators contain (hold in detention, office, whatever) the child until the child's parent(s) & police get there; we then turn the matter over to the appropriate authorities. I wish that some of these school officials would start earning their pay by doing what we, the tax payers pay them to do: THINK.

Posted by Daniel, Ottawa, Canada on April 8, 2009:

Such an outrage, but perhaps going to the supreme court will, in the end, stop the zero tolerance outrages. I feel sorry for the girl, though, having to go through this for the past five years. I'll be most interested in the outcome of the court case.

Posted by Lee, Houston on April 9, 2009:

Maybe the punishment for the school administrators guilty should be a strip search ... By the student and her parents.

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No way: that would be cruel and unusual punishment -- for Savana and her parents.... -rc

Posted by betsy-katy texas on April 13, 2009:

I was outraged and horrified when I heard about this. Americans so willingly consider handing over power to another individual. those in "power' seek these positions and wield it like a poisonous sword. WAKE UP AMERICA stop being manipulated into orwellian subservience! We are chasing money right now but what good will it be when we are all automatons? PAY ATTENTION AND GIVE A DAMN!

Posted by Jack, Maryland on April 19, 2009:

Without apology, a school -- a place of learning and development -- took a perfectly good student and without parental notice proceeded to psychologically rape her? I cursed out my son's teacher for not allowing him to put his name on a paper he just turned in and then failing him for it. I would've put the VP and nurse into the freakin floor if they did this to him.

Posted by Frankie, Colorado on April 21, 2009:

This wasn't merely "overzealous". It was sexual harassment! Given the prevalence of pedophiles and child abusers among school staff, it would set a terrible precedent to allow administrators to strip children on a whim. Yes, there's concern about drugs. An equally or more grave concern is sexual, emotional, and physical abuse of children in our schools by unsavory school district employees. Does any parent really want some unhealthy administrator getting his or her jollies by being allowed to undress children?!! I thought we were supposed to be teaching children how to protect themselves from sexual abuse. This would teach them to be compliant, helpless victims.

Posted by Dave, NJ on April 22, 2009:

I cannot believe this is even being discussed. No strip searching children without a parent or lawyer present! (period) There is nothing... NOTHING that supports an immediate non-parental consented strip search of a minor. This Redding case is appalling. The circumstances leading to it are reprehensible and I hope the community has called for the Vice-Principal's head.

Posted by ray pa on April 24, 2009:

i think the school should be give that 13 year at lease 20 billion dollars for what they did.

---

Why do you think local taxpayers should have to shoulder such a huge burden? If this was your school district, would *you* want to have your share be about $30 million, so you would have to work for the rest of your life to pay off? Why shouldn't the people who ordered this outrage -- and the people who carried it out -- be responsible? -rc

Posted by Lynn, Aurora.CO on June 8, 2009:

These school authorities deserve any reprimand they may receive from the High Court. This is child abuse of the worst nature. each should be forced to register as sex offenders for forcing a strip search without a parent or an attorney even being notified. Safford Unified School District #1 et al have shown a blatant disregard for propriety and sound judgment. I couldn't justify this action for heroin, much less IBUPROFEN for goodness sake.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on June 8, 2009:

Here's a thought. How about if a parent forces their own teenager to a strip search for suspected drugs? If the teenager were to report such an action to the state child protective agency, you can bet that the agency would be all over the parent(s) with an investigation and probable court action against the parent. Think I'm exaggerating? Contact the agency in your state to find out.

Why is it that schools are legally permitted to take actions against students that even their own parents are denied? I remember learning about an ancient Greek state called Sparta that took children away from their parents at 7 years old for the purposes of the state. But of course such a thing couldn't happen in a modern, enlightened society like America, right?

Posted by Stephen, Birmingham (England) on June 11, 2009:

If part of the excuse being given is that the law on searching school children is unclear, surely part of the prevention of a repetition of the events would be to restrict the right to conduct a search to those who could be reasonably expected to have a clear understanding of the law. Require that any search more invasive than, say, asking them to turn out their pockets and running a metal detector (or similar) wand around them be conducted by a law enforcement officer, who must be appraised of the situation fully. Empower the school only to use their existing rights to detain the pupil until said officer arrives.

A LEO should, by virtue of their position, understand the law including when and when not to conduct a search. They should also have an understanding of the legal restrictions on their right to search and the penalties they may face if they breach those restrictions. All such requests for searches should, of course, be logged whether a search occurs or not. Also, the act of having to contact the police (or similar agency), fully explain the situation, potentially be told to stop wasting police time (a criminal offense here in the UK, maybe in the US as well?) and have all this recorded might give the school administrators pause and cause them to seek a less egregious resolution. The thought of being searched by the police (or a similar agency) may also cause school children who are carrying actual illicit materials to surrender them so making the search unnecessary.

Whilst it could be argued that this would waste police resources, how much court resource has been 'wasted' by the necessity of this case?

Posted by Sammi, Florida on June 13, 2009:

When I was in school, there was a "secret society" of young women with drugs and items for sale or trade, something boys were generally not aware of, but some teachers knew about. While it didn't have a name, it was made up of young girls who were menstrating, and needed relief from cramps, other symptoms, needed supplies at various times, etc. Heaven help us if that society existed today! How silly! We traded aspirin, Midol, tampons, Kotex, whatever we needed and had to share, trade or sell, depending on the need and how well you liked the other girl. In high school, my purse held everything I needed to make it through a day of school, as well as a night of work, which today would most likely get me suspended from school forever, although none of the contents were illegal.

What started out as a reasonable idea for ZT has become a supreme farce of excessive stupidity. We all know that cream no longer floats to the top...what does float should be flushed! Common sense has gone the way of the dinosaur. Can common sense be cloned? Or is it destined to die out in the same way as our large lizardly friends?

Posted by John - Sacramento, CA on June 13, 2009:

Thank God I was smart (or lucky) enough to have put my daughter in private school for her entire pre-college schooling career.

It is certain that, if I had not, I would be in jail today for throttling some idiot public school administrator.

Posted by Amy, Canada on June 13, 2009:

I find it interesting that, as far as I understand American law, a Minor must have a parent or guardian in the room when being question by the police about involvement in a crime, but apparently not when they are told to take their clothes off by a Vice Principal who thinks he is equal in authority to the police.If the drugs really were a big threat, wouldn't the police be called, or am I being naive?

And as for immunity for the actual searchers, I personally do not accept the phrase "I was just following orders/doing what I was told". They had a responsibility to stand up for that girl.

I wonder what would be said if the 13 year old was an adult women, the vice principal was her boss, and her ordered her strip searched because she was accused of stealing. How many people would deny that it was Assault? So why is it different for a child vs the government?

Posted by Scott, Chicago on June 20, 2009:

It is a principle in the American school system that the school, while the child is physically present at the school or otherwise under the school's authority, is acting in loco parentis; -- in place of the parent."

So, if the school is the one doing the strip-search, the search is done by one acting in place of the parent. So the biological or adoptive parent is not necessary: the loco parent is. Very loco parent, in this instance.

It's a good thing for schools to be able to act "in loco parentis;" were that not so, the school would be unable to call for or permit emergency medical care, were there a life-threatening medical emergency (because only a parent, or one legally permitted to act as a parent, may approve medical treatment for a child).

But any good thing in the wrong place, or taken too far, is bad. It's a judgment call, as Randy constantly reminds us - and these loco parentises demonstrated egregiously bad judgment. They should be made to pay, and pay dearly, for it. And their employers, the people of that misbegotten town, should be made to pay dearly for hiring such buffoons.

(NB: not failure to exercise judgment: poor judgment. They exercised judgment; they could have done otherwise, and ought to have done.)

Posted by Rohin, New Zealand on June 20, 2009:

For those calling for the officials to be put on a Sex Offender Registry, this is another type of Zero Tolerance which goes against common sense.

The idea of a registry is that if someone commits a sex-based offense, others can find out and chose to not go near them.

However, (never mind the abuse which happens to actual offenders) many of those who are put on the list are not offenders of a sexual nature. Moreover, once on the list, it is extremely difficult to get your name removed, even if you are proved innocent (not just later found not guilty, but proved innocent).

A friend of mine who lives in the US has been put on the Sex Offender Register. His crime was urinating in a public place. It was late at night, but the location happened to be near a school. Obviously, he was a dangerous predator and everyone should be afraid!

I've heard other stories of 'sexual' criminals being ostracised, fired from their jobs, arrested on suspicion, etc. merely because of their presence on the register. One was on there for having sex with his girlfriend when she was 17 - he was 19. Another was caught masturbating in a public restroom (his wife had just given birth, and he didn't feel it was right to do so at their one-bedroom apartment with the baby).

Anyway, the point is that Zero Tolerance insanity applies to any circumstance when a major criminal consequence can be applied to an act which common sense says is innocuous. Remember, it could happen to you under these ridiculous policies.

Posted by Bob, Michigan on June 25, 2009:

If the administration in charge at Saffron Middle School has not been fired yet, citizens of Saffrod, Arizona need to recall their school board or at least the members who do not agree on firing the administrators. Also, the parents may not be able to sue the administrators but they should be able to bring criminal charges against them.

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I'm not sure we'll see any criminal charges, but just because the individuals aren't liable, the school district still is, and that pending lawsuit will surely now proceed. -rc

Posted by Kimberly - Sapulpa, OK on June 25, 2009:

I don't understand why there was no mention of forbidding her to contact her parents when she believed she was in danger.

If my child was denied access to me at any time, I would be beyond livid.

---

There was -- briefly. While it wasn't specifically a part of the dispute that the court looked into, in Ginsberg's comments she wrote, "To make matters worse, Wilson did not release Redding, to return to class or to go home, after the search. Instead, he made her sit on a chair outside his office for over two hours. At no point did he attempt to call her parent. Abuse of authority of that order should not be shielded by official immunity." -rc

Posted by Ben from Melbourne on June 25, 2009:

I've been watching this case on TRUE and am so glad the decision has landed in Savanna's favour, and by a convincing 8-1 majority. And even then, I was glad to see that the dissenting judge dissented because of perception as opposed to legal argument (i.e. encouraging kids to hide stuff).

The precedent is therefore a bit closer to 9-0 in a purely legal sense.

I'm thankful that I live in Australia. Whilst we may have some ZT policies that have snuck in, I've not been subject to them, but you better believe that if I ever come across them they'll have someone to deal with.

Many thanks for your commitment and diligence to this issue. You are not only talking to Americans, but the rest of the world that hopefully is breathing a little easier in light of this decision too.

It's also because of that far reach that I personally think of Savanna as a hero. She may have done it for herself and that's fine, but if this heralds the retreat of ZT, there's no telling how many lives she may save in the future (i.e. withheld asthma puffers, depression averted, medication withheld etc).

Posted by Ben from Melbourne on June 25, 2009:

I just read this in the dissenting judge's reasoning:

"Reasonable suspicion that Redding was in possession of drugs in violation of these policies, therefore, justified a search extending to any area where small pills could be concealed."

Note the use of the word "ANY".

Is it just me, or is this judge not only saying the strip search was reasonable, but that it could have gone further (such as a rubber gloved finger up the rectum)?

Aren't you glad this was shot down 8 to 1??!!

Posted by Bill in Altadena on June 26, 2009:

I am stunned by the behavior of these school "officials". My wife taught elementary school until our first child was born 6 years ago. Maybe things have changed in the last 6 years, but my wife and her colleagues would NEVER have done something like this. Of course, she taught in an elementary school, but they also have rules against weapons, drugs etc. However they used some common sense...

All I can say is thank God my children are being home-schooled!! (Hey, my wife has a teaching credential -- why not?)

Lastly, since the school did not allow Savana to contact her parents, does that rise to the level of unlawful detainer? I am very lucky that I am not her parent because of the possibility that I would be in jail for assaulting the principal.

Ok ok, one last comment. Savana was a minor child -- how can the school ruffians get away with this kind of behavior without a parent or attorney present? And then have a court agree with them?

Again, my children will not be attending any public school for the foreseeable future.

Posted by Stephen, Kansas on June 26, 2009:

A few items of note relating to the Savana Redding story:

- Both the majority and dissenting opinions by the Court affirmed that the school had enough cause to search Savana, based on the other student's word and based on the fact that Savana's planner, which was found in the other student's possession, contained items of contraband. The question was not whether a search was justified but rather whether a personally invasive search was.

- School staff had formerly noted that Savana (among other students) smelled like alcohol at a school dance. Another student informed school officials that Redding had hosted a party at her house before the dance where alcohol had been available.

- The majority opinion actually stated: "Because there were no reasons to suspect the drugs presented a danger or were concealed in her underwear, we hold that the search did violate the Constitution."

Now, I'm no lawyer, but I find the whole "because" thing rather disturbing. First of all, it makes it sound like if the drugs in question present a danger or there is reasonable cause to believe they're concealed in a student's undergarments, a strip-search is constitutional. Second, even if it isn't implying this, it certainly leaves the door wide open for another lawsuit if such a situation ever should happen.

- 4th Amendment rights are already a questionable point when it comes to school officials. Schools do not need a warrant to search lockers, personal belongings, etc., despite these warrantless searches being clearly in violation of 4th Amendment rights if those rights apply within the school setting.

Posted by Jim, Santa Barbara on June 27, 2009:

"The dissenting judge was Clarence Thomas, who wrote "Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments. Nor will she be the last after today's decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school."

Clarence Thomas is an idiot and an ass (and sexual harasser) and should be impeached. His comment above, among its other problems, fails to recognize the FACT that Ms. Redding is NOT a person who concealed pills in her undergarments.

Posted by Jim, Santa Barbara on June 27, 2009:

"Now, I'm no lawyer, but I find the whole "because" thing rather disturbing. First of all, it makes it sound like if the drugs in question present a danger or there is reasonable cause to believe they're concealed in a student's undergarments, a strip-search is constitutional."

One doesn't have to be a lawyer to read the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment says "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against UNREASONABLE searches and seizures, shall not be violated". A search based on a reasonable belief that a student is a danger to other students is constitutional. Whether it's a good idea in any given circumstance is a different matter.

---

A number of states, such as California, prohibit schools from doing strip searches on students no matter what is suspected and no matter whether it's Constitutional or not. Sounds like a smart policy, and I doubt children in those states use drugs any more than children in other states. -rc

Posted by Don in New orleans on June 27, 2009:

Are these the same school officials who complain their hands are tied to prevent disruptive behavior? So they can't paddle a minor, but they can strip them? Sounds like a need for a law REQUIRING a parent and attorney to be present for any kind of non-weapon searches. Kids have to respect authority, but how can they when these teachers apparently have no respect for their student's rights or personal dignity?

Posted by Mike from Dallas on June 27, 2009:

About the update: The lone dissenting opinion truly frightens me. Justice Thomas states that the court has "granted wide leeway in the past." Wide leeway does not constitute total, unrestricted, or limitless leeway.

Justice Thomas further stated that it's entirely reasonable that the absence of an item in one location would indicate its existence in another location (even after that "logic" was proven erroneous by its absence in the other location).

And finally, the individuals, acting as agents of the institution, are shielded from financial responsibility for their actions. The school may still be held responsible, but all they need to do to avoid it is to claim that their agents overstepped their authority, with a resultant wrist slap to show correction.

Without teeth for enforcement, the law is worthless.

---

I'm not sure the school can avoid liability that easily, especially when the school has spent the last several years justifying their agents' actions. I will update this page when the lawsuit concludes -- which will probably be several years from now (sigh!) -rc

Posted by Bill UK on June 27, 2009:

Now let's have a close detailed look at ALL rulings made by this paedophile endorsing clarence thomas, in cases of child molestation, rape etc.

While we're at it why not a look at societies/groups he, and everyone else involved in this assault, belongs to, company they keep, everything on the web ... we all know the drill.

Posted by Alan in Virginia on June 27, 2009:

I've lived with Zero Tolerance policies for about 10 years now. We have ZT for drug use, sexual harassment/assault, underage drinking, drinking and driving, and a slew of other situations, including intentionally failing a test. In practice these policies are applied with fairness and situational factors considered. No two instances are alike and they are treated according to severity, criminal or behavioral history, and character. Living with these has become second nature and many of you can look at the list and feel that several of the policies mentioned are reasonable. I would agree whole-heartedly. Indeed, who wants to have sexual harassment deemed acceptable or drunk drivers threatening our family on the roadways?

Like the case mentioned above, possessing a prescription drug without medical requirement is illegal. Even possessing expired medication can result in administrative or legal actions. Leftover ibuprofen from a prescription that has run its course is subject to these rules as well. While these rules are primarily designed to keep narcotic drugs from being abused, they are not limited in scope should an official decide to press charges. Still, it doesn't bother me. Mostly I believe it's reasonable.

See, I'm in the military and I volunteered to accept the rules and regulations governing us through the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Children placed in a situation as described here need protection by these school officials, not from them. I would hold all parties involved responsible. The assistant could have refused, as could the nurse. Should the same thing have happened to my daughter, I can't imagine my reaction being any different. Here's to Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance. Keep it up, Mr. Cassingham. Someone has to.

Posted by Ken, Virginia Beach, VA on June 27, 2009:

First, this decision by Justice Thomas is the perfect example of why justices should have term limits.

The article by the NY Times are examples of how we got into this ZT horror; a paper that supports this type of child abuse, and a professor that is teaching future teachers this kind of lock-step thinking and somehow reasons that it justifiable.

What a shame.

---

Don't jump to conclusions: a paper which reports what someone said isn't necessarily one which "supports" that view. You certainly shouldn't think that everything I report on is something I support! -rc

Posted by Allen, Arizona on June 27, 2009:

ZT is on its face unconstitutional. If you want to stop it in its tracks, then make every person who is responsible for formulating and/or enforcing ZT personally subject to ZT where it concerns their job and personal activities.

Personally, I am tired of all of the bureaucrats, politicians and other rule makers and/or administrators being exempt from the rules they make and/or enforce on the rest of us.

It is time for total accountability!

Posted by Dan Illinois on June 27, 2009:

From Randy's article:

In the first, Judges Gould and Silverman wrote that while they agreed that the rules in the Supreme Court precedent case were not satisfied and that "common sense" shows that the strip search of Savanna was therefore "unreasonable and unconstitutional," they believe that the individuals named in the suit (the vice principal, his assistant, and the school nurse) are entitled to a qualified immunity from liability, essentially because the law wasn't clear enough for them to understand.

So the Supreme Court just set a precedent for "Ignorance of the law IS an excuse"!

Posted by Kim, Japan on June 27, 2009:

Gah, I had to carry ibuprofen when I was in high school because I had DEBILITATING menstrual cramps. I mean, they made me double over in misery, and the only thing that knocked them out was two ibuprofen every four to five hours. (And sometimes, I still hurt after that.) Of course my mother let me carry some medicine on me!

I remember one time I had left my medicine in my locker by accident and during art class I asked to go get it, because I was starting to hurt. The teacher wouldn't let me go. I spent the rest of the class with my head on the table crying because of the pain. I doubt the teacher believed how much I was hurting (for one, it was a male teacher, he had no idea what menstrual cramps are like). The memory is vividly etched in my mind to this day.

When I originally read this story I pictured myself, having horrible, miserable cramps and a terrible period being forced to strip search. What a terrifying experience! I could also see the aftermath -- my parents storming the school, enraged. I bet Savannah's parents were furious!

Now I am a mother myself, although I have a little boy -- he will likely be big, tall, and have terrible growing pains. (He's big for his age now.) If they tried to suspend him, let alone STRIP SEARCH him, for carrying pain meds I have more than a few things to say to the school.

What are they really teaching in schools? They're teaching that humanity is stupid and authority does not deserve respect. And you know what -- with Zero Tolerance, they DON'T! They're not doing a job. They're just sitting on their cans making rote, meaningless responses.

I'm glad people are finally saying, "This is stupid" -- all the way to the top!

I am frightened by society's tendencies today. Someone pointed out this out on your page already, and it scares me: On one hand, we are sheltering children more and more and trying to remove responsibility from them. On the other hand, if they do anything extremely bad, suddenly they are adults and 100% responsible, when yesterday they were pretty much 0% responsible. You can't just flip flop like that. Kids need stability. They need to understand what's going on. The world is a big, confusing place and trying to force it all down their throat at once is bad. By sheltering them, ironically, we're actually making things worse.

Kids should get responsibility in reliable doses and have the possibilities more clearly explained to them, not stripped from them daily by adults who then prove they clearly can't handle the responsibility themselves!

Posted by dennis, san francisco on June 27, 2009:

"On one hand, we are sheltering children more and more and trying to remove responsibility from them. On the other hand, if they do anything extremely bad, suddenly they are adults and 100% responsible, when yesterday they were pretty much 0% responsible."

Kids should be taught by their parents what society fails to teach them -- such things as individual rights, personal dignity, not kowtowing to abusive or dimwitted authority, etc. Savannah should have simply refused to submit to the strip search, and should have refused to sit outside the office for two hours unless the school officials gave her sufficient reason.

---

Yeah, she should have, but I probably wouldn't have had the confidence to do all that at 13 either. -rc

Posted by Brian, Canada on June 28, 2009:

I had an asthma attack at school when i was 16 and my inhaler was empty when I needed it most. My teacher didn't hesitate to give me his (our school is a 20 minute drive from any health facility). After I used the inhaler, he begged me not to mention it to anybody, for fear of losing his job, among other ZT problems.

Personally, I think he may have saved my life that day, as he bought me enough time to get to the city before another attack came on.

On another note, I now have a 15 year old daughter. A few months ago I received a call from her school asking me to come in immediately, but they wouldn't tell me why. When her mother and I arrived at the school, we were informed that our daughter was under the influence of ecstacy. She would be given a 3 day suspension and a contact number for a counselor (the same penalty for someone caught with Advil, by the way).

Even under THESE circumstances, if I were told that she had been strip-searched, I would have lost my mind. I do think they should have searched her pockets (which contained 2 more pills), and her backpack. I also believe she should have been under constant supervision until we arrived (she was alone in the nurses office for almost an hour).

This was three days before two 14 year old girls from our end of town died from the same pills, which I believe came from the same person.

With all of the nasty things coming into our kids' schools, I think ZT has a place in some cases, but only if administered by someone that has common sense. Somehow, I doubt we'll ever see ZT and common sense in the same place.

One more quick note - when I stepped out of line at school, I was given the strap on my hand. If they aren't allowed to strap anymore, what makes them think that stripping our kids nude is ok?

Posted by dennis, san francisco on June 28, 2009:

Brian, Canada: "Somehow, I doubt we'll ever see ZT and common sense in the same place."

A reasonable conclusion, since ZT and common sense are by definition mutually exclusive.

Posted by Nancy, Eugene, OR on June 28, 2009:

I'm curious to know what rights a child or minor has to refuse to be strip searched or searched at all.

If a parent instructs their child to refuse and to insist that the parent be called before agreeing to any search and/or before answering questions - does that make the situation a lot worse for the child?

After reading Randy's post on unreasonable searches by police for adults - I ordered a copy of the DVD "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" from the website and will be showing it to my adult son and his friends. This was extremely helpful to know my rights as an adult, but I don't know enough to advise a teen or minor child.

Posted by Matt Sedan NM on June 29, 2009:

The real problem with all this ZT social engineering mumbo-jumbo is that the product of the public education system is a bunch of functional illiterates. Up to and including PhD level. ("My father past away"; true example.) When a graduate of a secondary school cannot construct a simple English sentence, (nor in most cases can his teacher) but can tell you why it is acceptable for Heather to have two mommies there is an endemic lack of direction to the educational process. Several years ago three of the top four finishers in the National Spelling Bee were home schooled. The national average on SATs (IIRC) is 940 out of 1600. Since the scores are 200-800 on each portion that becomes a REAL score of 500 out of 1200 or 41.6%. That was a FLUNK when I was in school, not an average.

Time has come long past for the localities to take control of their schools and tell state and federal boards of education to take a flying leap at a rolling doughnut. That way when stupid ZT policies are proposed you have a name to put with the brainless face and when egregious stupidity like this ensues, the proper nose to target.

If had a daughter in school today I would instruct her that in such an instance as this just sit quietly and inform school authorities "I will not take off my clothes until my mother arrives, please call her now." If the third repetition of this statement failed to get desired results, start screaming at the top of her voice, "I'm not taking my clothes off for you, I want my mother, NOW!"

And God help anyone who lays a hand on her.

Posted by Matt, Boston, MA on June 29, 2009:

Matt Sedan: SAT scores are deliberately weighted so that the average score on each portion is about a 500. This allows it to actually test relative performance, as opposed to a score on which everyone is expected to get 90+% correct, which tells you almost nothing about the relative performance of test takers.

In contrast, most people taking a class are required to get a 70% (?) or higher to pass, so classes are weighted so most people can pass. Scores for classes and for SATs are designed for completely different purposes, and are not in any way comparable.

Posted by Ralph NY on June 29, 2009:

I'm not surprised that it was Justice Thomas that dissented. I remember when he was being confirmed and the allegations of sexual harassment that were brought against him. Personally I believed they were true, and with that in mind, I can understand his attitude towards women and therefore his dissent in this case.

Posted by Louie, Georgia on June 30, 2009:

I am personally very wary of this decision that negates any personal responsibility for the administrators who knew or should have reasonably known about an illegal search. I agree with the commenter who said that this basically just made ignorance of the law, or at least feigned ignorance, a perfectly acceptable defense. This will have far-reaching implications. Where does that line get drawn?

To address the point, like with the "Don't talk to cops" thing, if your words, actions, or results of a search can be used against you in a legal situation, then you should have rights, and it should be regardless of age. After all, if the offense is serious enough, then you could potentially be accused as an adult. What kind of position would you be in if you had no rights against questionings or illegal searches, and once the prosecution basically has everything it needs, then you are told you can now exercise rights? Why bother then? No, this must start at the beginning. That position is not that contrary to being able to maintain order and discipline in a school. But Randy is right, a 13-year old who has just been told by a person in authority that refusing to answer a question or command will get them in even more trouble is not usually going to refuse.

That's why the student should at least be able to have a parent in the room. It should be the rule, if not the law. School admins and teachers should also have to take a minimum of 40 hours training initially, and 20 per year, in continuing education that specifically trains them in how to administer searches and questionings, what is correct, and what constitutes "unreasonable or excessive."

Sound onerous? Not to me, as long as the school offices amounts to interrrogation rooms, courts of conviction, and punishment tribunals all rolled up into one, and the only one even vaguely familiar with the rules gets to claim later that he didn't understand the law, and is allowed to shrug and say "Oh, well." In any case, how much more or less onerous than millions in taxpayer dollars defending heavy-handed tactics from admins out of control, and trying to put these genies back in the bottles? This also says nothing of innocent children being forcibly undressed and mercilessly browbeaten at the hands of people she or he has been instructed to trust and obey.

I see nothing wrong with public schools that are run properly. But let's face it, there are valid points against them. Any public school that pays the head football coach 25% more than the principal or headmaster has lost its grip on its responsibilities. Yes, I also think it is downright atrocious that a school admin can have a student hauled off to jail on weapons charges for having a nail clipper with a 1 1/2" barely functional "blade", all the while he sits there with a 4-6 inch long razor sharp knife in his pocket.

But people should keep in mind that private schools are not immune from ZT, either. Some people also have to weigh the school diploma against a GED, which, to some people, amounts to being a "drop-out diploma." Right or wrong, that is the perception.

Posted by Seth, Mpls on June 30, 2009:

I wonder if the FBI might be persuaded to take an interest in this case.

According to http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/civilrights/statutes.htm

Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

This statute makes it a crime for any person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any person those rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S.

This law further prohibits a person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation or custom to willfully subject or cause to be subjected any person to different punishments, pains, or penalties, than those prescribed for punishment of citizens on account of such person being an alien or by reason of his/her color or race.

Acts under "color of any law" include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the bounds or limits of their lawful authority, but also acts done without and beyond the bounds of their lawful authority; provided that, in order for unlawful acts of any official to be done under "color of any law," the unlawful acts must be done while such official is purporting or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. This definition includes, in addition to law enforcement officials, individuals such as Mayors, Council persons, Judges, Nursing Home Proprietors, Security Guards, etc., persons who are bound by laws, statutes ordinances, or customs.

Posted by Jon, Ohio on July 8, 2009:

I'm so glad to see common sense has finally prevailed in a society where common sense is all too often avoided. It's good to see our Supreme Court defending this person's constitutional rights (which is what they are there for). I hope this a lesson to all who embrace stupid communist and socialist laws and rules in the name of safety and justice. I think that if we didn't allow stupid people who are incapable of thinking for themselves to obtain positions of power in this country, we wouldn't have them making up stupid laws and rules for them to follow blindly. Thanks for the positive update, Randy!

Posted by Cheri, Missouri on July 18, 2009:

Wow. Ibuprofen? I carried Ibuprofen with me all the time, because I use for cramps and the occasional headache. Since when is Ibuprofen a dangerous drug?

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Since zero tolerance. -rc

Posted by DennIs, san francisco on July 19, 2009:

Cheri asks, "Since when is Ibuprofen a dangerous drug?" I saw a dilly on TV the other day say that coffee is "a drug, an intoxicant".

Posted by Don, Ontario, Canada on September 24, 2009:

DennIs - coffee technically isn't, but caffeine is. It's a potentially lethal substance when consumed in high doses.

Of course, so is sand. Or water. That being said, caffeine is the widest-used psychoactive drug in the world, and caffeine addiction is becoming the most serious issue you'll never hear about. When you take every potential problem it can cause into consideration, it may well turn out to be a more serious issue than smoking.

Just food for thought, mind you... but while we do have a responsibility to fight ZT and fear-mongering (in my opinion, at least) we also have a responsibility not to dismiss things out of hand before we've done our own research on them... even if they are statements made in a (again, my opinion here) stupid and sensationalist manner.

Coffee? Not a drug or an intoxicant, technically. Caffeine? Very much so (there is a condition called "caffeine intoxication" in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV published by the American Psychiatric Association - number 305.90 to be precise.)

Posted by Ed in Florida on September 26, 2009:

Reminds me of when the suits in our NY home office implemented a ZT policy on knives. I've carried a pocket knife since I was 12 and won't leave home without one. (I rarely fly anymore). At my annual hiring anniversary meeting with the new plant manager and a rep from HR, I told the manager what I thought of the knife policy. He turned to the HR rep and asked, "Is this true?" And pulled pocketknife from his own pocket. On the spot he changed the policy, telling the HR rep that to a paper pusher a knife might mean one thing, but to people who work with their hands it's a tool.

Posted by Seth, State College, PA on December 3, 2009:

Let me first say that I completely agree this is a insane thing that happened and totally inexcusable. But, I'm a sucker for facts and I'd just like to set it straight that it was in fact prescription Ibuprofen, as well as Naproxen. I still feel the Supreme Ct ruled in the correct manner, just thought that needed to be clarified. Thinking it was Advil or Tylenol makes the school district seem not only far too strict with the ZT policy, but also far worse than moronic in the strip search (although they were quite moronic, idiotic, and down right stupid; especially when the girl IS AN HONOR STUDENT).

I feel the biggest problem with this case was the fact that the child wasn't given the benefit of the doubt seeing as she was an honor student and didn't even have a prescription narcotic but simply an anti-inflammatory drug.

P.S. - I actually stumbled upon this by doing research on Clarence Thomas (the only dissenter in the S. Ct.) for an upcoming court simulation in which I have to be him.

---

You're correct that the facts are important, but you're mixing them up. You say it wasn't narcotics, but rather prescription ibuprofen. WHAT was? A strip search revealed no drugs at all -- not prescription, not over the counter. There was an unsubstantiated allegation that she had 400 mg ibuprofen, which is a prescription drug if that amount is in one pill (and over the counter if it's in two pills). Yet she was not in possession of any drug whatever: the unsubstantiated allegation was proven false. And that is a very important fact indeed. -rc

Posted by Ken, Toledo on December 18, 2009:

This phrase from the article: "they believe that the individuals named in the suit (the vice principal, his assistant, and the school nurse) are entitled to a qualified immunity from liability, essentially because the law wasn't clear enough for them to understand"

...has been commented on several times, and I'd like to point out that the court was not stating that it was okay for them not to know the law, but that the law in question could be reasonably interpreted in multiple ways. and that the assumption that the law gave them was one that could reasonably be reached by following the text of said law.

This brings me to my point. Far too many laws being passed nowadays are too vague in their wording to be practicable. This is not a new issue, as such criticisms have been applied to both the first and second amendments, but it seems to be growing, due to the amount of back-scratching htat goes on in the legislative process.

We need clearer laws.

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I agree with your conclusion completely! -rc

Posted by Patricia, Virginia on January 24, 2010:

Thanks to the bravery of Savana and her parents, my children will benefit and be protected from the disgusting behavior of adults who are supposed to be educators, but who, instead abuse the trust that has been given them by the parents.

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Not to take anything away from Savana, who was indeed brave to press on with years of litigation to set a precedent, but I'm dubious that school officials have learned anything from this case. I fully expect more strip searches of students and, I hope, more lawsuits until they do learn. But I'll be happy to be proved wrong. -rc

Posted by David, South Bend, IN on January 14, 2013:

Whether or not the school district itself is liable was kicked back to a lower court to decide.

Do you happen to know of the final result in that case? All of my searches just reference the timeframe up to and including the Supreme Court decision, but nothing after that.

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If there has been a lower court ruling since that write-up, I haven't heard about it. -rc

Posted by Bill, Los Angeles on January 14, 2013:

I have posted this before: Incidents like this make me REALLY glad we are homeschooling our two boys! Most people don't realize just how expensive and difficult it is to home school well. We DO have an advantage as my Wife is a credentialed teacher, but it makes it no less expensive -- or challenging. As a result, my children are growing up in a healthy environment that allows them to pursue the arts, science, history -- whatever interests them, while scoring very high on the mandated State Achievement tests. This a long-winded way of saying that our school district can take their Z-T policies and well -- you know.

To those who do not have the luxury to home school: close parental involvement with their child's school is a must! I would be very clear with the school and my child that ANYTHING that falls outside of the normal learning environment MUST be cleared through the parents first!

Posted by Brian, Los Angeles on September 15, 2014:

I got curious about the result and looked it up. The case settled at the end of 2009, and was dismissed in January 2010. No terms are available from the court, and I didn't see anything in the press (web) either.

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I researched it, and added a final Update. -rc

Posted by Dennis, san francisco on September 16, 2014:

Students should form a Savanna Redding club and one day every year celebrate Savanna Redding Day by coming to school with jelly beans and things taped to their clothes.

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Hah! Love it! -rc

Posted by Andrew - Ontario on September 19, 2014:

I just looked up the Safford Middle School, went to their staff phone and email page and looked up these names. I'm appalled by what I found. Somehow Kerry Wilson, the worst offender in this case, STILL HAS A JOB. How he wasn't stripped of his credentials outright I'll never understand, but how he was allowed, by the board, by the courts and by the parents to still be at that school... Now I'll admit that there is a possibility that there is a new Kerry Wilson at SMS, somehow a new teacher with the same name as the worst example of an educator that I have ever seen could have decided to try for a job at the same school, but I think the chances are quite slim to none!

Posted by Ken, CT on September 19, 2014:

Other posters over the years have covered the page and absurdity, so I won't bother parroting them. I'm disappointed that all this could have been prevented if Savana's parents had instilled in her the confidence to stand up for herself when she knew something was wrong.

My mother was a substitute teacher at my middle school. One day another student called her a name implying she was a woman of loose moral character -- rhymes with glut. This was in 1975 or 1976. Between classes some students dragged him into the boy's room where I was waiting. I was NOT a fighter, I avoided them at all costs -- but I must have felt that he'd committed an intolerable crime even to consider hitting him. I was incredibly nervous but I socked him a goagaine right in the gut and he dropped like a bag of rocks.

I was escorted to the principal's office by a teacher's aide who could barely keep from laughing.

The principal was not amused and yelled and yelled but I couldn't take him seriously, which he noticed and it just made him even angrier. He poked me in the chest and stuck his face in mine and asked if I believed in a eye for an eye. I looked him right in the eyes and said, Yes! I also told him I wasn't sorry and that I'd do it again if necessary.

I think he was frothing at the mouth when he suspended me for two days. (These days I'd be expelled.) I related the story to my dad and he congratulated me for defending my mother's honor. The next day he went to see the principal, poked him in the chest and said that if he ever touched me again he'd break the guy's nose. (These days he'd be arrested.)

The point of all that is that I was raised knowing that I had a mind and should never be intimidated by what others thought, even if they were adults in positions of authority. I knew I was right and I wasn't cowed by the principal. I've maintained that attitude and in spite of the fact that it's caused lots of grief for me more than once I'll never relent and I'd teach my own kids the same thing. I have never been impressed by "authority" figures and I have often said things to them so bluntly that they don't know what to do. Life's too short to beat around the bush!

When I was elected to the school board everyone was flabbergasted that I actually tried to do the things that I said I'd do. I sat in front of 100 large and loud football supporters and argued against elevating it from a club to a sport solely because it cost too much. They thought I'd be intimidated! (I was the only board member to vote against the motion.)

That was a fun six years. Half the district openly hated me and the other half wanted to give me a medal.

Today's parents NEED to teach their kids that they have rights. Want to strip search me? You'd better be willing to do it by sheer force or wait for my parents to be present. I can wait all day. Cops want too search my house? Get a warrant. Pull me over for speeding? I'll tell you my name and hand you my registration and insurance card but No, I don't know why you pulled me over and I'd prefer not to tell you where I'm headed our if I'm in a rush -- and I'm sure as hell not going to volunteer that I'm a legal concealed carry permit holder or that I have a legal gun in my car (WHAT was that woman thinking?!)

Nobody owns me. Nobody's better than me. Nobody gives me orders -- if you ask nicely I'll consider doing what you want. If you want me to change my mind about something then please feel free to present a rational case for your point of view. If you ask me a question I'm going to give you my best answer, so make sure you actually want an answer.

One last thought for everyone begging for "common sense." I have a saying I like to trot out in these situations. "I've only ever met two people with a lick of common sense, me and you -- and I'm not too damned sure about you."

Posted by Lynne, Hubertus, WI on September 20, 2014:

"A new principal in a nearby county was almost prosecuted several years ago. A rusty BB gun was found left on a school bus, and he decided not to call the police. (All firearms must be reported.) Fortunately, allowance was made for his lack of experience and he did not get taken to court. I never saw a report on the gun owner."

A BB gun is not a firearm. By federal law, a firearm is something which expels a projectile by force of gunpowder.

And while it might come under a state law about "other weapons on school grounds" if the bus had to go onto school property to get students, the "gun-free" school zone law doesn't apply because it's a vehicle, not a school.

Posted by R Guy, Tenn. on September 21, 2014:

After reading all of the postings and a good number of comments, I have noticed a lack of comment concerning the niggardly amount of compensation awarded to Savanna, and any commentary as to why her Mother was awarded a dime. After all, given the time frame that it has taken to get any justice for this girl, now a young adult, $250K is a slap in the face, and an added slap is that she and her mother have to pay any attorney's fees or other expenses. Randy, is there any indication as to why the two women involved agreed to the paltry sum mentioned?

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To be fair, I only found out the denouement -- and added it to this page -- recently, so few have had the chance to comment. Remember, all of this started when Savana was just 13 years old, and I doubt she could initiate court action on her own. She needed a parent to be part of it, and no doubt mom spent thousands of hours in the years this was in progress helping her. After years and years of fighting, they had an opportunity to get it over with. So yes, the school district in one sense "won" by dragging it out so long that they paid out a relatively paltry sum after committing a relatively outrageous action, even though they knew (or "should have known") that it was completely illegal. -rc

Posted by Phil, UK on September 22, 2014:

Ken in CT: nice job of blaming the victim there. So the whole thing could have just gone away if Savana had stood firm and asserted her rights? >_<

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