Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Reasonable" Official Sexual Assault?

Today is Wednesday, 25 March 2009.

In 2003, Savana Redding was an eighth grader and 13, in Safford, Arizona. An assistant principal believed she possessed prescription-strength Ibuprofen. So, she was strip-searched.

School officials forced Ms. Redding to strip to her underwear, then “they asked me to pull out my bra and move it from side to side. They made me open my legs and pull out my underwear.”

So far as is known, none of the three school officials who participated in the assault were members of the Taliban or registered sex offenders.

A lawsuit regarding the assault is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting in San Francisco, ruled 2-1 that the assault was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches. Judge Kim M. Wardlaw wrote: “It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights. More than that, it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity.”

The dissenting proponent of sexual-assault-disguised-as-discipline, Judge Michael D. Hawkins, wrote: “I do not think it was unreasonable for school officials, acting in good faith [sic!], to conduct the search in an effort to obviate a potential threat to the health and safety of their students.”

In an interview, Ms. Redding, now a psychology student at Easter Arizona College, said, “I was a good kid.” In a brief, the school district responded: “Her assertion should not be misread to infer that she never broke school rules, only that she was never caught.”

In other words, absence of proof of guilt is absolute proof of guilt.

Asked to comment, a teacher of sociology and education at New York University, Richard Aron, said: “Do we really want to encourage cases, where students and parents are seeking monetary damages against educators in such school-specific matters where reasonable people can disagree about what is appropriate under the circumstances?”

Would these “reasonable people” be of the same ilk who believe that it is permissible to beat children, so long as no permanent mark remains?

The responsible school officials should be fired and prosecuted. The Supreme Court must rule that nude searches of children are crimes under the Constitution. The ball's in your court, Mr. "Chief Justice" Roberts. At long last, summon a shred of decency, and write such a majority opinion.

If not, have the courage to publicly abdicate control of schools and courts to the Taliban.

After your cavity search, of course.

Quotations and other information used in this column may be found in an article reported by Adam Liptak at:

On this date in 1911, 148 female seamstresses at The Triangle Shirtwaist Company in Greenwich Village, New York City, were murdered in a fire of unknown origins, unable to flee because exits to emergency stairs were locked (to prevent infiltration by union organizers) and the Fire Department had no ladders capable of reaching beyond the sixth floor. (“Shirtwaist” was then the term for “blouse”.) The owners fled, and were later acquitted in the killings.

A memorial gathering is still held each year. At the minute corresponding to the beginning of the fire, an NYCFD truck raises a ladder to the sixth floor. It is deeply moving.

On this date in 1881, Bela Bartok, the great Hungarian composer, was born.


Anonymous La_Libertine said...

I generally try to give utmost support to school faculty and other staff, as they have an all-too-often thankless (and normally heroic) job to do. In this case, however -
if I was Savana's parent, I would currently be serving a sentence for an assault of my own (upon those three school officials)!

4:14 PM  
Anonymous rtr said...

Ditto to all of La_Libertine's remarks and sentiments. Local control of schools is a sword that cuts both ways. Even during historical periods of positive public sentiment toward public schools (not seen since the publication of "A Nation at Risk"), local sentiment in support of authoritarian control of student thought and behavior requires courageous resistance by school officials and staff that is accompanied by considerable professional risk.

In a society whipped into militaristic fervor through fear mongering, resisting the pressures to give in to authoritarian elements of our human nature becomes a formidable challenge, particularly in more parochial communities.

As horrifying as the HH's reported incident is, equally horrifying is the silent intellectual abuse that is encouraged and facilitated through national efforts to turn learning from a garden of exploration in to a prison of rote response.

Sadly, public education has been transformed from an institution that showcases a hope of 'possibilities' into an institution that mirrors the societal status quo.

Perversely, the public has demanded and unhappily received this narcissistic transformation blaming the mirror for the blemishes and structural defects staring back at us.

9:37 AM  

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