by Damozel | Chief Justice Roberts said it is probably reasonable for a school official to demand that your kid shake out her bra, which is what happened to 13 year old Savanna Redding, strip-searched by [female] school officials in Arizona on suspicion of packing prescription ibuprofen ("a prescription pill with the mind-altering force of a pair of Advil"). But CJ Roberts did suggest that a line might have been crossed. According to The New York Times, "Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. suggested that the law might treat different undergarments differently. “The issue here covers the brassiere as well,” he said, “which doesn’t seem as outlandish as the underpants.” (NYT)
None of the lawyers had a particularly easy time of it. Matthew W. Wright, representing the school district, said that intimate searches should be allowed even for the most common over-the-counter drugs.
Scalia said, with his usual logic (resembling, as ever, the peace of God) --:
“You search in the student’s pack, you search the student’s outer garments, and you have a reasonable suspicion that the student has drugs,” he said. “Don’t you have, after conducting all these other searches, a reasonable suspicion that she has drugs in her underpants?”
“You’ve searched everywhere else,” Justice Scalia said. “By God, the drugs must be in her underpants.” (NYT)
Because if you think the student has drugs, it must be reasonable? And if you can't find them anywhere else, it's reasonable to assume she is -- oh, this is priceless -- "crotching" them?
The attorney who was representing the federal government touched the matter with a needle, I think:
Though even the school drew the line at body cavity searches, mainly because they don't have trained personnel. (NYT) There I detect a welcome note of sanity.
Heckuva job, Supremes!
[E]ven those justices lacking a daughter, a niece, or a uterus had access to an amicus brief in this case documenting the fact that student strip searches "can result in serious emotional damage" and that student victims of strip searches "often cannot concentrate in school, and, in many cases, transfer or even drop out." Savana Redding, herself a data point, described the search as "the most humiliating experience" of her life. Then she dropped out of school. And five years later, at age 19, she gets to listen in on oral argument in Porky's 3: The Supreme Court Says "Panties."
So much for process that affirms the dignity of the individual. I guess 13 year olds are presumed not to have any.
According to Lithwick, Breyer wanted to know why it is worse to be made to strip down to your panties and bra in front of adult strangers than to change into gym clothes or bathing suits.
This leads Ginsburg to sputter—in what I have come to think of as her Lilly Ledbetter voice—"what was done in the case … it wasn't just that they were stripped to their underwear! They were asked to shake their bra out, to stretch the top of their pants and shake that out!" Nobody but Ginsburg seems to comprehend that the only locker rooms in which teenage girls strut around, bored but fabulous in their underwear, are to be found in porno movies. For the rest of us, the middle-school locker room was a place for hastily removing our bras without taking off our T-shirts. (Slate)
By the way, Justice Breyer rocked the underwear humor as no Supreme has ever rocked it before, though not exactly intentionally.
Justice Breyer elaborated on what children put in their underwear. “In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day,” he said. “We changed for gym, O.K.? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear.”
The courtroom rocked with laughter, and the justice grew a little flustered at having apparently misspoken. (NYT)
That ain't all. How's this for risible?
Today's argument features an astounding colloquy between Matthew Wright, the school district's lawyer, and Justice Antonin Scalia, who cannot understand why "black marker pencils" are also considered contraband. "Well, for sniffing!" answers Wright. "They sniff them?" asks Scalia, delightedly. "Really?"
Or when Justice Ginsburg complains that the tipster in this case fingered Redding only after she herself was caught with drugs, Justice Samuel Alito muses that "the school could keep records on its students, like the police keep records on confidential informants, so unless this student had a proven record of having accurately ratted out a certain number of classmates in the past, she couldn't be believed." (Slate)
Emily at The XX Factor:
Yeah, except for that it is hilarious.
Lance Mannion muses about the danger of giving school administrators unlimited power over their students:
Some of these types learn to hate their students over time, but some come into the job hating them---they are drawn to the work because it offers them the chance exercise their hate. They hold positions of authority, and positions of authority self-select for bullies and tyrants, the way jobs on Wall Street self-select for greedheads, and jobs in Hollywood self-select for narcissists.
But here's the thing.
While as individual parents we've granted them powers in loco parentis, collectively, as members of society, we've also granted them powers in loco excolo--They get to act like cops.
And in the United States, despite all the whining about Miranda and coddling criminals and lawyers' tricks that let the guilty go free, cops almost always get their way.
Ian at Overruled explains how the Supremes were able to view the case from their lofty Perch O' Supreme Indifference to Decency, Reality, & Geometry:
Radley Balko at The Agitator gets the last word:
Can anyone think of a single incident in the last 30 years in which several children have died after ingesting drugs distributed by one of their classmates on school grounds? Before we let school principles go rummaging through the panties of underage girls, shouldn’t we be at least be able to cite a few examples?
It’s a little troubling to see how comfortable these old men...seem to be with allowing school administrators access to the genitalia of school children based on nothing more than a hunch that they might be “crotching” some ibuprofen.
At this point, the drug war really can’t be parodied, can it?
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