If you were the parent of a 13-year-old girl, would you consider it "reasonable" for officials at her school to order that she be strip-searched to find out if she were hiding ibuprofen pills?
We’re guessing no — and on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed.
The justices ruled 8-1 in favor of an Arizona teen who sued after being forced to disrobe in the nurse’s office after school officials received a tip that she was planning to pass out pain pills on campus.
No pills were found.
"I have long believed that it does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights of some magnitude," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in a concurring opinion.
In the majority opinion, Justice David Souter noted that while public school officials have wide latitude to search a student’s outer clothing, backpack or locker if they have reasonable suspicions the individual is hiding something illegal, the Safford, Ariz., school district officials went well beyond that.
"In sum, what was missing," Justice Souter wrote, "was an indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose that [the girl] was carrying pills in her underwear. We think that combination of these deficiencies was fatal to finding the search reasonable."
It’s the correct call — and one that will set a standard for future school searches nationally.
Simply put, the Safford school officials blundered horribly when they took such drastic action in search of a glorified aspirin tablet. Fourth Amendment protections don’t cease at a school’s front door.
Common sense prevailed.