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In an unexpectedly lopsided 8-1 vote, the United States Supreme Court this morning ruled that the 2003 school strip search of eighth grader Savana Redding was unconstitutional.

I wrote about oral arguments in the case, Safford v. Redding, here, here, and here. Today’s Supreme Court ruling can be found here. I’ll have more on the decision next week.

Evening update: Here’s some interesting coverage of the decision from Pandagon, Meanwhile, the Washington Post wonders whether this is Justice Souter’s last opinion.

I posted earlier about one misconception about Tuesday’s Supreme Court arguments in the case of Safford School District v. Redding, and now I’d like to take on another.

The case stems from a lawsuit brought by Savana Redding, who was strip-searched when she was in the eighth grade by school officials looking for prescription-strength ibuprofen.

In a Slate story on the oral arguments, Dahlia Lithwick quotes ACLU attorney Adam Wolf as saying that school officials required “a 13-year-old girl to take off her pants, her shirt, move around her bra so she reveals her breasts, and the same thing with her underpants to reveal her pelvic area.” Justice Breyer, Lithwick says, responded by wondering whether the strip search Wolf described was “all that different” from requiring a student to “change into a swimming suit or your gym clothes.” 

But Breyer’s example was not, as Lithwick claims, offered as parallel to Wolf’s — just the opposite.

Read the rest of this entry »

On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Safford School District v. Redding, the case of Savana Redding, an eighth-grade girl who was strip-searched by school officials looking for prescription-strength ibuprofen.

It’s an interesting and important case, and I’ve got lots to say about it — expect another couple of posts on the subject in the next day or two. But I’d like to start by clearing up a misconception.

A reporter named David G. Savage covered the case for the Tribune Company, which publishes the Baltimore Sun and the Los Angeles Times. In his story, which appeared in both of those papers, he said that when Justice Scalia asked Matthew Wright, the school district’s attorney, whether a body cavity search would be permissible in a school setting, Wright “insisted it would be legal.”

Savage’s take on the exchange has been echoed by a bunch of blogs. But it’s a profound misrepresentation of what Wright actually said.

Read the rest of this entry »

This morning the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of an eighth-grade girl who was strip-searched at school over suspicions that she was hiding prescription-strength Advil somewhere on her body.

The transcript of the arguments will be released later — and I’ll update this post when I have them — but reporters who were present describe the two sides’ attorneys staking out extremely different interpretations of the constitutional issues at stake.

Adam B. Wolf, representing the student, Savana Redding, said that schools must have “location specific” information to search inside a student’s underwear. Even if a student is suspected of hiding weapons or heroin, he said, a school has no right to conduct such a search without evidence that contraband is hidden on the student’s body.

The attorney for the school, on the other hand, said that the school would have been legally justified in conducting a body cavity search on Redding, if they considered it appropriate.

The Court’s ruling in the case is likely to come sometime in June.

4:15 pm update: The transcripts of the oral arguments have been posted (PDF). I’ll read and comment when I get the chance.

6:15 pm update: Reading the transcripts now. The Baltimore Sun badly misrepresented the school attorney’s response to the cavity search question. More later.

The Peoria, Arizona Unified School District will let gay eighth grader Chris Quintanilla wear a “Rainbows Are Gay” wristband to school.

As we reported last month, Quintanilla’s principal instructed him to remove the wristband when he saw him wearing it in a school hallway.

The wristband ban was apparently part of a larger pattern of behavior on the principal’s part. According to Quintanilla’s mother Natali, when she expressed concern that her son was being harassed at school for being gay, the principal told her that he wouldn’t be a target “if he didn’t put it out there the way he does.”

But the ACLU is now claiming victory, saying that the district “has assured the American Civil Liberties Union that it will no longer prevent [Quintanilla] from wearing [the] wristband at school.”

The district, for its part, says the whole thing was just a big misunderstanding. Why it took them more than a month to clear it up remains unclear.

About This Blog

n7772graysmall is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

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