Innocent Maryland Teens Treated Like Criminals: Strip-Searched By Cops during Humiliating High School Search

Press Release May 13, 2004
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Tony Newman at (212) 613-8026 or Elizabeth M

Days after a fifteen year old Chestertown girl was forced to undergo a humiliating strip search at the hands of local sheriff’s deputies at Kent County High School, outraged members of this Maryland community were asking how the humiliating search could ever have happened. She and another girl were strip-searched, and 16 other students were patted down after police dogs “alerted” on their book bags. No drugs were found on any of these students.

“My daughter shouldn’t have had to go through all this, and neither should anyone else,” her mother told a Baltimore Sun reporter. The Chestertown case was the latest in a series of alarmingly brutal drug searches conducted by police in United States high schools, including a horrific incident in Goose Creek, South Carolina, which was also allegedly prompted by dogs sniffing drug residue on book bags. In that case, 107 students–most of whom were black– were ordered to lie on the ground at gunpoint, and submitted to extensive searches. No drugs were found.

“I was forced to endure a partial strip-search due to a drug search carried out by the Kent County Sheriff’s Office,” the tearful student told the Kent County school board, according to the Washington Post. “The humiliation that I endured that day, and that I am still enduring, is overwhelming.” Courageous local teens are speaking out against the dangerous attitudes among local police and school administrators that enabled this horrific incident to occur.

“Now the drug war’s foot-soldiers are strip searching innocent girls. When are we going to say enough is enough?” asked Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The logic behind this raid and drug testing without cause is the same: It’s OK to let our constitutional rights slide when we’re trying to combat drug abuse by our children. But if we allow all students to be presumed guilty, the leap between a nurse with a urine cup and a cop forcing a girl to strip is not as big as it seems. It’s just a different kind of search.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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