LOUISVILLE, KY – On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court limited the use of strip searches in the public schools, two young women filed an action in Jefferson County Court against a local middle school and several of its employees for using “grossly intrusive” methods to discover an alleged cache of marijuana. They were allegedly forced to unzip their pants, “lift up their bras … and jump up and down.”
Ashley N. Gaither and S.C., a minor, were 14 and 13, respectively, in 2005 when they say they were “arbitrarily singled out” while riding a Jefferson County Public Schools bus to Kammer Middle School in Louisville, and then subjected to a day-long interrogation and humiliating searches without being allowed to call their parents.
According to the complaint, the incident began when the bus arrived at the school and two employees boarded it in order to resolve a dispute in which the girls were not involved. The employees “smelled what they thought was marijuana,” the complaint states, and five girls seated at the back of the bus, including Gaither and S.C., were detained and searched.
During an interrogation that lasted the entire school day, and after being denied repeated requests to call their parents, the girls were required to “remove their shoes and socks, unbuckle their belts, unbutton their pants, and unzip their pants,” the complaint says. They also had their “waistlines physically touched and searched” by a male employee while their pants were undone, and were made to “lift up their bras while their shirts remained on and jump up and down.”
The searches were all performed behind closed doors and without the presence of police offices or female staff, the suit says. No marijuana was found.
At the end of the day, the girls were allegedly barred from riding the school bus home and instead made to take public transportation.
The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 last week that an Arizona school district went too far when it strip-searched a female student suspected of hiding prescription-strength Ibuprofen in her underwear. The high court said that such searches would only be justified if there was an “indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity,” or if a student was suspected of hiding a weapon.
Gaither and S.C. seek unspecified damages. They are represented by Johnny Bruce of Jones & Bruce.
Read the full complaint.
– Article from Courthouse News Service on June 2, 2009.