Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Illegal school strip searches in Iowa

This is the first week of school for millions of students across the country. I wish I had a happy Back to School blog post, but something timely, important and disturbing has just come up. Lynn Harris' Broadsheet post alerted me to an illegal strip search by school officials at Atlantic High School in Iowa. This blatantly illegal search was done on five high school girls in an effort to find $100 that went missing during gym class. You can read more about the case in The Des Moines Register's reporting (link via Pandagon before it got to Broadsheet).

For once I agree with parents bringing in lawyers. Even if someone had stolen $100, that is no reason to strip search one, much less five students. And the Supreme Court has already ruled against unreasonable school strip searches in a case earlier this year (see analyis on SCOTUS blog), so the school is truly beyond the pale. Even I knew that from reading the news, and I currently do not work for a school? How stupid and uninformed can a school be?

I am preparing my daughter for many contingencies in life, but I absolutely hate to think that it's necessary to teach her how to resist an unlawful strip search by school officials. I don't think that would happen at our school but it's absolutely unacceptable for it to happen anywhere.

The quote that disturbed me most: "The older sister of one of the girls said the teen took off her bra and underwear after specifically asking if she had to do so. She complied because she did not want to cause a scene, the sister said."

Schools have such inherent authority authority over students that when they misuse their power, it's very hard for students to resist complying with an unreasonable request. I really hate to think that we need to train our kids to say, "I'm not doing anything until my parent are here and I've spoken to a laywer," but in these cases it's necessary, in order to get schools in line with the laws and precedents that are already on the books.

I have been planning to write about Kidpower, the personal safety organization I am affiliated with, and I really need to fast-track that post. This case shows that we need to teach young people individual personal safety skills, but also to get all of society on the same page--a safe page--when it comes to these issues.

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