Strip-Searching Kids? 6 Shocking Ways Our Schools Treat Students Like Criminals
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Mississippi students aren't the only ones being cuffed in school. Last April, Joseph Anderson, a first-grade special education student at Public School 153 in Queens, New York, was handcuffed and taken to the hospital by the NYPD, following an arguably age-appropriate temper tantrum over an Easter egg. According to the New York Daily News, Anderson's mother told the school she was on her way. The police defended their actions, saying the first-grader was "acting in a threatening manner," and reportedly waving scissors.
"If he hears an ambulance, he runs under the bed and screams, 'They're going to get me,'" his mom told the Daily News, "He's really traumatized. I don't let him watch the news anymore, because if he sees cops, he cries."
2. A distressed seventh-grade student in Georgia sued Clayton County School District following the humiliation he suffered while being strip-searched in front of three classmates last February. The seventh-grader (called D.H. in the lawsuit) says he is traumatized from the teasing and embarrassment he endured while forced to strip down to his Superman skivvies as three classmates watched.
Officials at Eddie White Academy first strip-searched three other students, looking for marijuana. When one of them accused D.H. of having pot, administrators brought him to the office of his vice-principal, Tyros McDowell. Then, according to the Huffington Post:
While the three classmates watched, D.H.'s pockets and book bag were searched but didn't find anything, the lawsuit said. One of the students told school officials he had lied about D.H. having drugs, but administrators continued the search as D.H. begged to be taken to the bathroom for more privacy, according to the lawsuit. D.H. was ordered to strip and again, no drugs were found.
D.H. said his classmates called him Superman after the incident, and that he still suffers emotional distress following the taunting. Considering how awkward middle school is, and how cruel some kids that age can be, D.H.'s case has angry civil liberties advocates asking whether his humiliation was worth it.
A Supreme Court case over a similar strip-search asking the same question suggests the answer is no.
In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled in Safford Unified School District v. Redding that the strip-search of a 13-year-old girl accused of having prescription pills was unconstitutional because "the content of the suspicion failed to match the degree of intrusion," and arguments could not justify "the categorically extreme intrusiveness of a search down to the body of an adolescent" for "nondangerous school contraband."
The ruling stated:
"In sum, 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."
Is marijuana so dangerous that a possession accusation warrants a strip-search in front of classmates?
3. J.T. Gaskins was diagnosed with leukemia when he was a year old. He has been in remission since 2003. After hearing over the holidays that a family friend was diagnosed with cancer, Gaskins, 17, decided to reach out to other chemotherapy patients. He started growing his hair for donation to Locks of Love.
But Madison Academy in Burton, Michigan, where Gaskins attends school, did not want to hear it from the leukemia survivor. At just two and a half inches long, Gaskins' hair was found to be in violation of the school's student handbook, which requires hair to be "off the collar, off the ears, and out of the eyes." They suspended him for the violation.