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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Missing the Bigger Picture

As school psychologists, we are always concerned with the well-being of our students. I think this especially holds true when the student is suspected of abusing alcohol or drugs. And with SACs becoming less and less of a presence in the school systems, substance abuse counseling for all students will likely fall to the school psychologist.

It is the job all school personnel to ensure the safety of all students. However, when does protecting students from the harm of drugs or alcohol cross the line into invasion of privacy?

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court ruled that an 8th grade student who was stripped searched for suspicion of possession of prescription ibuprofen indeed suffered a violation of her right to privacy. (Safford Unified School District v. Redding (Case No. 08-479) )

Is it okay to strip-search our students in the name of safety? Should a 13 year old girl be subject to slipping her bra and underwear out of her clothes for inspection, or are we missing the bigger picture here?

Posted by Jessica Szybowski.

6 comments:

tjasa said...

In the case of Safford Unified School District v. Redding, the school did not have any rights to strip search Savanna’s underwear for non-prescription painkillers (ibuprofen). In fact, the Supreme Court ruled that this eight grade student’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated. School officials should have not gone this far to strip search Ms. Redding’s underwear on the basis of a tip by another student. Did the school officials wonder that perhaps this other student was lying or that strip searching a student may be crossing the line? The way I see it, the school had no reasonable doubt for this search. I find this whole incident to be totally ridicilous…

Roxane Nassirpour said...

I think that strip searching students is a violation of the the 4th Amendment. It is completely unacceptable. If we suspect addiction is affecting their academic functioning, we can work with the student and their parents to address the problem without taking it upon ourselves to act as vigilantes. If we were in therapy, we wouldn't strip search our clients to provide us with clues into their drug abuse.

Jessica S said...

I agree with both Tjasa and Roxane. In fact, if you both remember from Role and Function, I don't even support random drug testing.

I thought that this was an interesting case because there are other school districts that have gotten away with similar antics.I beleive that the Supreme Court made the right decision, and I hope that it sents a precedent that this is a violation of student's 4th Amendment rights. I think that we as adults need to remember that just because students, in most cases are not yet adults, they still have rights.

In any event, I disagree with the ruling that no legal action can be brought against the school. What these school personnel did to this girl was competely inappropriate.

Jessica S said...

I am correcting my last comment. The Supreme Court ruled that the school officials are NOT immune to legal action, which means that they can and probably are being sued.

SBartolozzi said...

I agree with everyone, the school did not have the right to strip search the girl. That is a huge violation of rights and if I were the parents I would definitely bring legal action against the school.

This brings up a conversation that I remember from Role & Function. If a student claims that another student has something harmful on them, is that enough to invade that person's things in order to find out? Sometimes kids just make things up. However, if it is true and something happens then who is at fault? I think there are very thin lines that need to be examined very closely before action is taken. In this case, I think that the school acted too hastily and made very poor decisions, thus should suffer the consequences.

Tammarra R. Jones said...

It is inappropriate for children to be strip searched by educators. If the safety of students is at risk, professionals who are familiar with children and empowered by the law should conduct any search. If my child was asked to strip in order to confirm another child's or adults concern, I would not allow it. Any educator who had a concern about my child would need my assistance.
The bigger picture requires that we address the cultures in our schools which make substance use and abuse reasonable and desirable to our students.