Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Supreme Court: Gets Way Too Involved in a Discussion about Underwear

My latest blog is titled "Hey Supreme Court: Keep Your Hands out of My Daughter's Underwear!".  You can read it in full on

It's about the cases of Savana Redding, a then-13 year old girl who was strip-searched with very little cause by school administrators. She ended up suing the school for violating her Fourth Amendment rights (the right against unreasonable searches). A lower court found in favor of the middle school, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal found her constitutional rights had been violated. The Supreme Court heard the case yesterday. The almost-all male justices made arguments including one by Justice Breyer that basically claimed it was no big deal to be strip-searched at school since kids change clothes at school for gym class. He later said that in his experience in changing for gym, some kids put stuff in his underwear. He then backpedaled and said maybe it was him that put stuff in their underwear. Either way, the deliberations had a through-the-looking-glass feel with Supreme Court justices bandying about the words "panties," "underwear," "brassieres" and "body cavity search" with great relish. Thank God for Justice Ginsburg, the lone woman on the court. She actually "sputtered" in response to the nonsense that her male colleagues were spewing and reminded them that Redding wasn't just forced to strip but to shake out her bra and open up her panties to show the officials there were no drugs in her crotch. 

Common sense in this case would point towards that search having been an unreasonable one, even though there might still be some set of extremely rare circumstances in which you could imagine school officials needing to strip-search a student. However, calling their parents or even the police first would also seem to be a common sense next step. 

I first heard about the story on NPR yesterday but decided to look into it online and to see what more conservative media sources were saying. After all, protection against unreasonable searches would seem to also be an issue that would resonate with conservatives, and certainly with libertarians. had some good coverage. Other outlets today, especially with its-always-entertaining Supreme Court dispatches by Dahlia Lithwick was excellent. 

So far everyone I've mentioned the case to is aghast. Those of us who are parents can imagine the nightmare scenario where our own innocent, honors student daughter is subjected to a humiliating strip-search at school.  It may be the best argument I've ever heard for home-schooling.