Remember the case of Savana Redding, who was strip-searched in school on suspicion of having ibuprofen, and who took her case all the way to the Supreme Court? Well, despite the inane questions posed by some justices during oral arguments, Savana has won. Jill at Feministe reports that the lone dissent in the 8-1 decision came from Clarence Thomas:
“Redding would not have been the first person to conceal pills in her undergarments,” he said. “Nor will she be the last after today’s decision, which announces the safest place to secrete contraband in school.”
Thomas only restates what high school girls everywhere have always known: Your panties are the safest place to secrete.
I’m grateful for some humor in this, however dark, because the decision isn’t all sweetness ‘n’ light. Alas quotes the NYT as reporting:
The officials in Safford, Ariz., would have been justified in 2003 had they limited their search to the backpack and outer clothing of Savana Redding, who was in the eighth grade at the time, the court ruled. But in searching her undergarments, they went too far and violated her Fourth Amendment privacy rights, the justices said.
Had Savana been suspected of having illegal drugs that could have posed a far greater danger to herself and other students, the strip search, too, might have been justified, the majority said, in an opinion by Justice David H. Souter.
“In sum, 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,” the court said. “We think that the combination of these deficiencies was fatal to finding the search reasonable.”
So, had Savana been accused of “secreting” heroin, ecstasy, or even marijuana, the court might well have countenanced the strip search. In other words: Her bullies weren’t thinking big enough.
This story is getting seriously under my skin. I mean that literally, not metaphorically, insofar as I tend to viscerally feel all that impinges on my child’s skin. Because when we landed in Brussels yesterday morning, en route to Berlin, we bumped up the harshest security I’d seen since our LeapPad brought out the bomb squad in Berlin last summer. Oh, Belgium! Who’d have thunk it? Are you suffering from the EU equivalent of short-man syndrome?
As we approached the metal detector, I asked the guards if my sons needed to take off their zip-front hoodie-hoods. “Oh, no,” I was told. The Tiger passed through the gates without incident. But the Bear’s zipper was a few inches longer, and it tripped the alarm.
“English? French? German?” the guards asked.
“Vee haf to do a body search. Vich is his luggage?”
And they start to lead the Bear away. I’m thinking, “Kill, kill, kill!” (See, I truly am capable of violence.) In the same moment, my husband is setting off the beeper with his belt (next time, we all wear sweatpants!) and I realize I’m on my own with both children. I’m faced with the dilemma of the mother in The Poisonwood Bible: stay with my older child, who needs me acutely, or with my younger child who’s inherently more needy?
Luckily, “away” was only a few feet, else I would have jumped the guard, and I’d be writing this from a Belgian prison (assuming they hadn’t already confiscated my lap top).
The “body search” they conducted on my Bear didn’t just involve a pat-down. The guy actually inserted his hand into the elastic waistband of the Bear’s sweatpants. He found nothing. He gave me the evil eye once more. Then he again demanded to know which luggage belonged to my son.
That’s when the Tiger’s LeapPad triggered a thousand alarms and a body search of the many tiger-striped stuffed animals that were packed in the same bag. I’ll admit his Mama Tiger is a hazard, but only because she houses myriad germs. By the time they finished failing to do a cavity search on Mama Tiger (she only has a belly-button, and it’s an outie), the guards had forgotten all about the Bear’s luggage, and they wearily waved us through to the terminal.
I know that when you’re between two countries, you’re virtually stripped of every right. If the guards had been even a wee bit clever, they might have picked up on the Tiger’s mild fever. (Swine flu! Swine flu! Oh, oops, not flu at all, so sorry we had to sent you back over the ocean.) If they were more historically minded, they might have seized on the fact that my husband once knew a couple of people who joined the Red Army Fraction in the late 1970s. The border guards are not that smart.
But neither are school officials very clever, as Savana Redding’s experience vividly shows. The next students’ rights case to come before the Supreme Court might not end so sensibly. I don’t know about you, but as the parent of a two future middle-schoolers, I don’t want the school to have virtually unfettered power over my children’s bodies. The Belgian border guards were quite enough.