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School looks for drugs, demands student strip in front of peers

There are certain rights that every American can claim, rights that protect everyone. One of those rights, a right that is so fundamental to the American criminal law system that it colors how police do their jobs, is the right against unreasonable search and seizure. In order to ensure that no one is humiliated or embarrassed in a criminal investigation, police must follow strict rules regarding searches, rules that many people in Maryland and Washington, D.C., might expect school officials to follow as well. Sadly, in one school's quest to keep the school drug-free, it seems as if a vice-principal has crossed the line between reasonable and unreasonable search.

A middle-school student has said that he was forced to strip in front of the school's vice principal and three classmates after one of the classmates told school officials that the student had marijuana on school property. The student was called into the vice principal's office after he was accused of having marijuana, but his accuser soon recanted his statement when the student's bag and pockets were emptied and no marijuana was found. Despite his statements and despite the fact that the student requested privacy, the vice principal forced the student to take off his clothes in an attempt to find some evidence of marijuana.

Ultimately, the vice principal and school officials did not find any marijuana and it does not appear that any criminal charges were brought against the student. Though this teenager is not facing drug charges, this story reminds us of just how aggressive schools can get in their search for drugs and drug paraphernalia. The student's attorney says that the school officials should have known better, especially since a U.S. Supreme Court case found that school officials cannot strip search a student, even if they have probable cause.

Not only did school officials reportedly strip search the student in front of three of his classmates, but those three classmates were strip-searched themselves, prior to the student even arriving in the office. It is unclear why school officials suspected the three teenagers of having marijuana, but they too seem to have gone through an unreasonable search for drugs.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Georgia Middle School Student Sues School District Over Marijuana Strip Search," Greg Bluestein, Feb. 15, 2012

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Law Offices of
James N. Papirmeister, Esq.

Law Offices of James N. Papirmeister, Esq.
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As Published in Washingtonian Magazine | Washington's Best Legal Minds | 2013