Safford Unified School District #1 V. Redding Essay

In Safford Arizona school on October 8th, officials strip-searched a 13-year-old girl after they received information from another student that the girl possessed “prescription strength” 400 mg ibuprofen and 200mg naproxen. While attending math, assistant principle Kerry Wilson entered the classroom and instructed Savanna Redding’s to his office. Upon entering, she immediately noticed her planner placed on his desk. However, what she didn’t recognize was the knife, cigarette and lighter that was contained inside it.

Admitting the planner was hers, she explained to the assistant principle that she had lent the planner prior to her classmate, Marissa and had NO knowledge of what was inside it.

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Also brought to her attention was a large white bottle of ibuprofen that was also found in the planner. Unsatisfied, the assistant principle asked to also search the rest of her belongings in order to disprove her claim. When no evidence was found, he proceeded to send her to the school’s nurses office for what can be considered a strip-search.

She was told to remove a clothing and in the processes her private areas (breast) were exposed. Complete embarrassed, she remained calm and did as she was told. No pills, or any other illegal item was found on her. Naturally, when Savanna ‘s mom discovered this she “dropped the bomb” and filed a lawsuit saying it violated her daughter’s fourth amendment right (which was the right thing to do)and that she was never contacted during the search at anytime.

Proceeding to the trial, the District court found no violation and a panel agreed, but on the appeal in a “en banc decision 6-5” the court reversed the other decision saying that it DID in fact violate her fourth amendment right. School district appealed to the Supreme Court and approved there appeal and granted certiorari. It was reasoned that the strip search was not justified nor was the scope of intrusion reasonably related to the circumstance In the end, the court of appeals held that Ms. Redding’s Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure was in fact violated.

Issue 1. Can School officials conduct a search to the students belongings based on a hunch and does this violate their Fourth Amendment right? 2. Should it be permissible for school officials hold a student for questioning and can they conduct a strip search on their students for contraband and does this again, violate their rights? Are they liable for damages in a lawsuit filed under “42 U. S. C Section 1983”? Holding 1. In this case school officials did not have the right to strip search a student based on a hunch and it did violate her fourth amendment right.

2. School officials were not held liable because they have Qualified immunity were they right to look for drugs and weapons even though the it was a strip search they where going on the intuition that she was giving out drugs to other students. However, it is considered unconstitutional and administrators do not have the authority to conduct this type of search. Opinion and Joining Judges Justice Souter, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Breyer, Alito, Stevens, and Ginsburg held that the strip-search had indeed violated Savanna’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Even though school official had suspicion they had no right to strip search her. Even though school officials did not have the right they are granted qualified immunity because they were just trying to the right thing and protect other students. They took into consideration that the search was only conducted because it was based on a reasonable suspicion otherwise. They stated that search measures used by school officials to “root out” contraband must be “reasonably related to the objectives of the search and not excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction. Concurring Opinion and Joining Judges Justice Souter delivered the opinion of the Court saying that the search did violate Savanna Fourth Amendment right because no drugs were suspected to be concealed in her bra and underwear so they had no reason . The judge felt the school officials were not liable and entitled to qualified immunity because school officials were just trying to prevent drugs distributed throughout the school. Justice Ginsburg also had a concurring opinion.

He agreed with the majority that the school administrators were qualifiedly immune to prosecution. However, he argued that the judiciary should not meddle with decisions school administrators make that are in the interest of keeping their schools safe. Dissenting Opinion and Joining Judges Justice Thomas had a dissenting opinion and stated that the fourth amendment right does protect us against unreasonable search and seizures (as did most of the judges).

But it is the context of were it takes place he says students have the fourth amendment right just not on school property. The reason is the responsibility the school and the officials have is to ensure the safety of the students. Thomas concurred in the judgment in part and dissented in part. He agreed that the school administrators were qualifiedly immune to prosecution. However, he argued that the judiciary should not meddle with decisions school administrators make that are in the interest of keeping their schools safe.

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