June 26, 2009

Zero Tolerance - Unexpected, but welcome ruling

Contrary to what I expected, on Thursday SCOTUS ruled [PDF] that the school officials who strip searched 13-year-old Savana Redding girl based on an uncorroborated accusation, violated her 4A protection against unwarranted searches and seizures.

To recap (as if anyone needs a recap), Savana Redding was an eighth grade Safford, AZ Middle School honor roll student who, in October of 2003, was yanked out of class by school officials. A vice-principle had found prescription-strength, 400 mg ibuprofen on one of Redding's classmates. To dodge trouble, the kid claimed that Redding had given her the ibuprofen. Once in the office, Redding was made to submit to a search of her possessions, which found nothing.

Adamant about the school’s zero tolerance policy; the vice-principle had a school secretary and the school nurse strip search Redding. This search again produced nothing, and Redding’s family sued the school. "The strip search was the most humiliating experience I have ever had," Redding said in her affidavit. "I held my head down so that they could not see that I was about to cry."

Redding won in District Court. The school district appealed and the ruling was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court and eventually made its way to SCOTUS.

I’ve made it known that I am not a fan of Zero Tolerance policies, and the Redding case is the poster child for the unreason this policy represents. Such policies prevent rational people from thinking and acting rationally. David Souter, writing for the 8-1 majority says "What was missing from the suspected facts that pointed to Savana was any indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose that Savana was carrying pills in her underwear. We think that the combination of these deficiencies was fatal to finding the search reasonable."

Justice Souter’s opinion further stated, “No legal decision cited to us or that we could find permitted a strip search to discover substances regularly available over the counter at any convenience store throughout the United States.”

This both surprised and delighted me. After following the oral arguments in April, in which Justice Ginsberg was a lonely voice of reason [PDF], and Justice Breyer spent his time discussing how kids put stuff in his underwear when he was a child in school, I was certain the case was doomed. None of the male panelists seemed to have a clue. In the end only Justice Clarence Thomas remains clueless.

As Savana’s attorney says, "Today's ruling affirms that schools are not constitutional dead zones,” and as Drug Policy Alliance Network executive director Ethan Nadelmann said following the ruling, "It's good to see that even the Roberts court recognizes when zero tolerance policies grounded in drug war hysteria go beyond the dictates of reason and the Constitution."

Score one for the good guys.



Old NFO said...

Bottom line, it was deemed illegal ONLY because they were not searching for "drugs"... Although in some of the idjits minds, ibuprofen is a drug. Glad it was finally resolved.

Lockwood said...

I loved that Thomas' reason for dissenting was that (I'm obviously paraphrasing) everyone would henceforth hide their drugs in their underpants.

I for one have been waiting for a couple of decades to buy some street drug to keep in my underpants. I'm too much of an old fart to enjoy ingesting them anymore, but imagine the thrill I'll get by nestling the family jewels in an ounce or so of loose weed.

Mule Breath said...

NFO, We may disagree on this one, but I don't see the justification for any sort of search. Even if there were "drugs" involved, strip searching a 13-year old is wrong. We created our own drug problem in the schools with the prohibition and resulting hysteria.

Lockwood... I'm begining to wonder about you...

Lockwood said...

...as well you should. ;)

Old NFO said...

MD- I don't believe ANY reason exists to strip search minors. I was talking about SCOTUS reasoning for deeming it illegal. If my child were strip searched, I'd have been in somebodys face in a half a heartbeat!

Mule Breath said...

NFO, I'm very glad to hear that. Sorry I misunderstood your original comment.

The ruling was very surprising to me, even though I suspect you are correct that the shoe would have been on the other foot had the substance been something other than ibuprofen.

Rogue Medic said...

Old NFO,

Ibuprofen is a drug, just not a drug of abuse. We have decided that anything goes, Constitution and such, when the goal is to prevent people from using drugs of abuse. We have exchanged individual responsibility for communal paranoia.

Now, I've got to go score some propofol. ;-)

I wrote a bit about this at Zero Tolerance - What Does It Mean? I don't know why it does not show up as a link.

Mule Breath said...

Yes, I saw your ZT blog, and saw the link to mine. I don't understand either why it isn't showing here except in the comments. I wonder if there is a setting I have wrong.

Rogue Medic said...

I don't think the problem is something on your end. I have the same problem many other places. Some of the bloggers see the linked post and know how to make the link thing work. Nobody has explained to me how to make it work. The Blogger help is, as usual, not very helpful when it comes to specific questions, such as this.

Putting a link in the comment is something that a friend sent me long ago.

If you go to Wikipedia, the HTML article explains how to do much of this. The one I use most often is to link to other sites, such as here:

HTML elements. From there scroll down to Hypertext. This explains how to insert links. Of course, I have only learned a few things that are handy to use in comments. The Rich Text setting on Blogger allows me to just click on the same things there. I have found that cutting and pasting in Rich Text messes things up, so I just copied down the html for the things I use, such as blockquotes, justified text, colors, . . . . I will never be a programmer, but this is close enough for me, at least for now. ;-)

Lockwood said...

I keep a word pad file with frequently used HTML pieces- such as linked text- then copy and paste when I need to. So with the end bits removed, the line looks like this: a href=http://www.website.com linked text /a. I'm never going to remember all the different commands.

And BTW, when Rogue Medic's comment showed up in my inbox, the link was visible and worked fine... I see it here fine too. So I'm wondering if it's a browser issue rather than a commenter issue?

Rogue Medic said...


I use a notepad list of my most commonly used HTML. That isn't going to redirect me anywhere until I put it in something that recognizes HTML.

I had been referring to the place at the end of the post, where it lists Links to this post. I notice that my post linking to this post is now showing up. Since we are both on Blogger, you would think that this would happen more smoothly and quickly.

I have not had a problem posting links in the comment section. That I learned over a year ago. I use it regularly without problems. Creating a post that is recognized in the Links to this post part of the blog - that is where my problem has been. At least my problem on this topic. :-)

PS Don't store Duragesic patches in your undies. The analgesic is powerful. So is the adhesive. You might remove them and something you did not intend to remove, but not realize until later. :-(

Lockwood said...

Ahh... I misunderstood. It was several months using blogger before I figure out how to use tags, and I know others who have specifically asked how to hyperlink text. But I too have noticed that often when I link to a post it either shows up very late, never, or gets lost after a while. And on my own posts, I can often tell I'm getting lots of hits from others' posts, but no links show up.

And you've put the fear of god in me: I promise to never hide neuro-active drugs in me undies... ;-)