25 June 2009

Profiles in creep-age

Via the WaPo:
Student Strip Search Illegal
By Robert Barnes

Arizona school officials violated the constitutional rights of a 13-year-old girl when they strip-searched her on the suspicion she might be hiding ibuprofen in her underwear, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday. The decision put school districts on notice that such searches are "categorically distinct" from other efforts to combat illegal drugs.

In a case that had drawn attention from educators, parents and civil libertarians across the country, the court ruled 8 to 1 that such an intrusive search without the threat of a clear danger to other students violated the Constitution's protections against unreasonable search or seizure.

Justice David H. Souter, writing perhaps his final opinion for the court, said that in the search of Savana Redding, now a 19-year-old college student, school officials overreacted to vague accusations that Redding was violating school policy by possessing the ibuprofen, equivalent to two tablets of Advil.

What was missing, Souter wrote, "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."

It was reasonable to search the girl's backpack and outer clothes, but Safford Middle School administrators made a "quantum leap" in taking the next step, the opinion said. "The meaning of such a search, and the degradation its subject may reasonably feel, place a search that intrusive in a category of its own demanding its own specific suspicions," Souter wrote.
Makes sense to me, as it did to most of the court.

But not all. Remember: 8-1 against the school. Wait for it...
Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter. "Judges are not qualified to second-guess the best manner for maintaining quiet and order in the school environment," he wrote.
Last I checked, judges are uniquely qualified to determine what is and is not appropriate regarding issues of search and seizure.

I'd love for Coke Can Clarence to let us know exactly what "quiet and order" is being jeopardized by the possible existence of two pills that any student could acquire about 500 of at any corner drugstore.

And yet we still have to listen to people drone on about how the president has to make sure Souter's replacement is sufficiently conservative enough. Do we really need another person on the big bench with this sophisticated a perspective:

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