U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Strip Search of 13-Year-Old Girl over Ibuprofen

Press Release June 24, 2009
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Daniel Abrahamson at 510-295-5635

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that the strip search conducted by school officials in Safford, Arizona of 13-year old eighth grader Savana Redding violated her constitutional rights.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court in an 8-1 vote called the search an unreasonable exercise of the school’s authority. Writing for the majority Justice Souter said, “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.”

“This is a victory not just for Savana, but for all public school students and parents across the country” said Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “After today’s ruling, a parent can send their son or daughter to school without having to fear that he or she will be subject to an unreasonable strip search by school officials hell-bent on fighting a drug war rather than considering the best interests of the child.”

Today the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the Ninth Circuit’s prior holding that the search was both unconstitutional and personally humiliating. Writing for the majority Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw stated: “It does not take a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of her constitutional rights.”

“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.” said Ethan Nadelmann, director of Drug Policy Alliance.

Drug Policy Alliance opposes strip searches in schools because they are invasive and traumatizing for students, erosive of the relationships between students and adults, and do nothing to identify and assist students that may have substance misuse problems.

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

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