I told you the Drug Warriors were completely nuts

Overturning two earlier rulings, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said last week an Arizona middle school assistant principal violated the constitutional rights of a 13-year-old inmate of his government youth propaganda camp (“public school”) by ordering her to be strip searched to determine whether she had in her possession a prescription-strength ibuprofen.

The 6-5 ruling by the San Francisco-based court — binding in nine states including Nevada — reinstated a lawsuit that a divided three-judge circuit panel threw out last year. The now-revived suit was brought by the parents of Savana Redding, who was an eighth grader at Stafford Middle School in southeastern Arizona when assistant principal Kerry Wilson ordered her out of math class and into his office to investigate whether she’d violated the school’s “zero tolerance” drug policy, which prohibits even over-the-counter medication.

School officials in the conservative ranching community had found another student with Savana’s school planner and some ibuprofen pills. That “frightened” student claimed Savana had given her the pills. Savana denied it. After a search of her pockets and backpack yielded nothing incriminatory, Wilson ordered his administrative assistant and a school nurse to force the girl to disrobe.

“The officials had Savana peel off each layer of clothing in turn,” wrote Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw for the majority.

The girl stood in her bra and underpants while the two female goons searched her clothes. She was then ordered to partially remove her bra, exposing her breasts, and finally told to shake out the crotch of her underpants.

“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,” Judge Wardlaw wrote. “No ibuprofen was found.”

The majority said the search was unjustified because school officials made no attempt to corroborate the unsubstantiated claim by the “cornered” student who was “seeking to shift blame from herself” when she identified Savana as the source of the headache pills. Forcing a 13-year-old child to disrobe was a “disproportionately extreme measure,” the majority said.

“Common sense informs us that directing a 13-year-old girl to remove her clothes, partially revealing her breasts and pelvic area, for allegedly possessing ibuprofen, an infraction that poses an imminent danger to no one, and which could have been handled by keeping her in the principal’s office until a parent arrived or simply sending her home, was excessively intrusive,” Judge Wardlaw wrote.

The court cited arguments by the National Association of Social Workers that strip searches of children “can result in serious emotional damage, including the development of, or increase in, oppositional behavior.”

The ruling held Wilson, the assistant principal, could be liable for monetary damages, while his aide and the school nurse were not because they were acting under his orders.

In a dangerous dissent, appeals court Judge Michael Daly Hawkins held the search was constitutional. “School officials deserve the greatest latitude when responding to behavior that threatens the health and safety of students or teachers. …” Judge Hawkins wrote. “When school officials reasonably believe that a student is carrying a weapon or harmful drugs, it will rarely be unreasonable for them to do what they can to neutralize the danger.”

Goodness. Should they have moved on to a gynecological exam? Why not force all the children to strip naked upon arrival at school, hosing them down for good measure?

A cynic might argue such experiences are good training for young people of Savana’s generation, “breaking them in” to the kind of police state already in force at America’s airports (where it’s now illegal to make an utterance that might “distract” or in any way upset your assigned crotch-fondler), the more general expansion of which is eagerly anticipated by the folks who now demand your fingerprints and mug shot before you can cash a check, carry a firearm, or sign a mortgage document — and a urine sample before you start your new job.

After all (this line of argument goes), it’s Savana’s parents who turned over their precious child to the government for indoctrination: What did they expect?

In fact, however, the appeals court errs here only in the implication that strip-searching a 13-year-old might be OK if school officials were looking for something a little more potent than ibuprofen. The presumption of innocence and the right to be secure from unreasonable search and seizure would not evaporate even if the suspected “crime” involved a reefer or a pocket knife.

Nor should it be necessary to cite “social workers” to the effect that such debasement — not widely seen outside of Army boot camps in this country since slavery days — risks the development of “oppositional behavior,” which I will take to mean the kind of defiance and guerrilla resistance which are exactly what the incarcerated inmates of these youth camps should be up to.

Police-state tactics are banned in a free country, period. It is no more morally justified to make me support such a regime by seizing the necessary funding from me in the form of “school taxes” than it would be to use my tax dollars to fund government rape camps or the forcible conversion of non-believers to the Church of Gaia or the Cult of Induced Sickness Through Cannabinoid Deprivation.

Wilson was way out of line — as were the members of the local school board who presumably empowered him with this “zero tolerance” zealotry.

Monetary damages? In some places, they do a lot more than that to a man who uses his position of trust and authority to require a 13-year-old girl to take off all her clothes.

13 Comments to “I told you the Drug Warriors were completely nuts”

  1. Van Cronkhite Says:

    How have we sunk so low? I am hard pressed to think of any American I know who cares about freedom. I know firearm enthusiast who care about RKBA, “Their own” RKBA. I have met pot heads who want decriminalization of marijuana laws, but who could care less about my RKBA. My Christian friends what to raise their children in schools that teach their religious values, but could care less about my right to privacy over my own body, or anyone’s RKBA. And on and on it goes…

    Is anyone alive in These United State who cares about freedom for freedom’s sake?

  2. Drew Says:

    The little girl being forced to strip for fear she might have an Advil of RX strength? This is absolute evil. What is more troubling is that the nurse and other aide to the Rape, are without blame as they are “following orders”. What is happening to our country? That argument went out with the Nazis… right? Hang em high.

  3. Rob Musso Says:

    I have two daughters, and even though I live in the People’s Replublic
    of Kalifornia, if that incident had happened to one of them, that man would have had a hard time making it to his trial from his hospital bed.

  4. Lynda di Armani Says:

    I work in school and since when has it changed so that children don’t even have the right to dignity.Instead the fear of the scary drug of ibprophen has given this man the right to violate a 13 year old .This vice principle is abusing his power and I’ll bet if you look in to his past it won’t be the first time or the last by the looks of it,if he is allowed to be validated for his behaviour. The school board and school this man works for need to know that we don”t approve of this behaviour. Judges are also elected in the USA . They also need to know that we don’t approve or validate people who use their power to abuse and violate others. One should never forget that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Are we trying to teach the children what it is like to live in a police state? Fear is the biggest factor used to strip us of our human rights.

  5. Starchild Says:

    In response to Van Cronkhite — I totally hear and agree with what you’re saying. I sometimes view the role of libertarians as cross-pollinators — helping members of the various groups resisting government encroachment on the particular freedoms they hold dear, to raise their heads and look around them and see the others fighting their lonely fights see that they are *not* alone, if only they would make common cause with others fighting for freedom, and mutually agree to respect each others’ rights to be left alone so long as they are not committing aggression against others.

    I will often send emails to my friends and allies in the cannabis freedom movement about the right to keep and bear arms, the problems with government taxation and spending, etc., and when I encounter conservatives at Tea Parties or elsewhere, I try to help them understand that opposing Big Government means opposing not just social welfare spending, but also military spending, the “War on Drugs,” intrusive border controls, etc.

    However when you ask “How have we sunk so low?” I must protest that *we* have *not* sunk so low. At least I know I have not, and from your comments I would strongly surmise that you have not either. Those who would give up their freedom, or that of others, are not part of any “us” that I choose to recognize. In political terms, I believe we as libertarians, freedom lovers, or fellow travelers, ought to recognize “ourselves” not as those people who happen to live within a particular geographical area or enjoy government recognition as U.S. citizens, but as those people, regardless of race, creed, color, location, national origin, sexual preference, or physical characteristics, who generally value freedom and respect that of others.

  6. Durk Pearson Says:

    That creep and his accomplices deserve to be tried, convicted, and imprisoned for child abuse.

  7. Jake Witmer Says:

    As usual, Starchild is 100% correct. I like the cross-pollination metaphor. Another good metaphor is DNA. Code. Meme transfer. Idea software programming.

    The trouble with what passes for Americans these days is simply that they have not been programmed with anything resembling proper code. It’s not that they’re stupid, it’s that they accepted the government youth propaganda camps because it’s all they’ve ever known.

    Their parents, on the other hand, should be ashamed. (And we should all sign up for a Johnny Appleseed class tomorrow, because it’s not getting better on its own.)

    See also http://www.fija.org for viable solutions.

  8. Reis Says:

    Vin – Good coverage of this illicit governmental attack upon a 13 year old girl. What is the current status of this action? My best is that none of the participants have been disciplined in any way and that the School Board is stating “Disciplinary actions of school district employees are not to be released to the [tax paying] public,” or words to that effect.

    As a long time but now retired federal police officer I am amazed and ashamed at how public employees – police, school, regulatory offices – have assumed the former role of Nazi officials.

    Reis Kash

  9. Jonathan Says:

    This is why the drug war needs to END! Also, maybe this is why our public schools want more and more of our money but seem to be broke; EVERYONE is suing the school if someone breathes on them the wrong way.
    Anyone knows zero-tolerance is bullshit anyways. All that has done is ruin the school reputation and records of brillant students all because of something accidental, but students are still being bullied left and right, and the victims are still killing themselves because they feel that’s the only way out of this.
    I have nothing against public schools, as I was educated perfectly fine in one, but this is getting out of hand.

  10. e j germond Says:

    Why did the ruling hold only Wilson liable for monetary damages while “his aide and the school nurse were not (held liable) because they were acting under his orders”? Refresh my memory if necessary but wasn’t that precisely the same argument made by defendants at the Nuremburg Trials 60-odd years ago? “Ya, ya…yadda yadda. Sure, I murdered 9000 Jews in the gas chambers but, hey, so what! I was just following orders. And besides, Hitler’s dead now so I’m off the hook. It was all his fault.”

  11. jharry3 Says:

    I guess Louis Armstrong was wrong.

    Its not “A Wonderful World”.

  12. Shooterman Says:

    As a wonderful lawyer, now dead, once said;

    Our Bill of Rights constitutes a cluster of little foxholes of liberty ground into the hard cold face of history by helpless men for a shield against the lash of tyrants. They are the result of distrust of power and distrust of men in power. They are a recognition of Lord Acton’s statement of a truth eternal–“power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
    Dalton, Ga., Sept. 28, 1955.

    In the over 60 years since Mr Pittman said those ringing words, Leviathan has gotten bigger, more intrusive, and the people have gotten, for the most part, uncaring.

  13. Bill Miller Says:

    A police state is a small price to pay for living in a free society.