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A giant legal headache over a 13-year-old and ibuprofen

Submitted by on Saturday, 17 January 2009 One Comment
Savana Redding is a college student in Arizona who likes to read, write and listen to classic and alternative rock.

"Sorry to say but I do not listen to rap ... i don't like the messages it puts out into young minds ... and mostly its illiterate babbling," she writes on her MySpace page.

She knows people are looking at her profile because she's in the news lately, and she doesn't mind that as long as they're not there to make fun.  She lists her occupation as brain surgeon/oompa loompa. She admits she's a little strange.

"But given everything I've been through thus far in my life, I think I'm allowed to be. The most important thing to me right now is having fun, cuz that's what u gotta do to stay sane..."

What she's been through in her life includes being strip-searched at school at age 13 when a classmate busted with a prescription-strength ibuprofen claimed Savana had given it to her.  The case is before the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to Savana's affidavit filed in the case, the search came after an assistant principal at her Safford, Ariz.,  middle school asked her if she minded if they searched her belongings. She agreed, knowing they wouldn't find anything.

The search accelerated, though, when she was asked to go into another office with two female school employees. The women asked her to take off her clothes in their full view and, again, she agreed because she " felt I would be in more trouble if I didn't do that they asked," she wrote.

Even though they again found nothing, she was forced to sit outside the principal's office for 2 1/2 hours while a parade of students, parents and police officers went in to talk. Eventually, she was allowed to go back to class.

Her mother was never called, though the father of the student who accused Savana was notified. The accuser, by the way, had several pills in her possession that day, according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Savana's favor.

When Savana's mother complained about the search the next day,  the principal told her there was no problem "because we didn't find anything," the appeals court ruling said.

And I thought Denver Public Schools officials were being ridiculous when they referred kindergarteners who kissed in class to the local human services department. At least parents were involved there.

The Arizona district where Savana went to school claims the search was needed to enforce a zero-tolerance drug policy.

Forcing officials to follow a legal standard of "probable cause" for searches would cast a "roadblock to the kind of swift and effective response that is too often needed to protect the very safety of students, particularly from the threats posed by drugs and weapons."

How about a standard of common sense and respect?

School officials conducted the search based on the word of a classmate who had every reason to lie. A classmate whom another student had said was distributing pills and was planning a lunchtime party, according to the appeals court. A classmate who was caught with contraband.

They stripped a 13-year-old after finding absolutely nothing during  a search of her backpack to indicate that the classmate was telling the truth. They made her sit alone for more than two hours. They never notified her mother.

You can claim the lawsuit is the result of American Civil Liberties meddling into the business of the fine folks fighting the war on drugs - except someone has to stop the Gestapo from rolling over 13-year-olds.

You can dismiss the appeals court ruling as the work to the wacko liberal Ninth Circuit - except the decision sites case law from across the country.

You can say that teens don't have the same rights as adults, and I would agree.

Except I stop agreeing when a 13-year-old is left crying and naked at school.

"I'm very lucky that I can still claim to be sane without too many people thinking otherwise," Savana wrote.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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One Comment »

  • Vanilla Cokehead said:

    unbelievable – methinks some Arizona school administrators are taking their authority just a tad too seriously, just like the “kissing police” in Denver.

    The whole push for “zero tolerance” policies in schools has gotten way out of control.

    I hope Savana Redding pushes this to the Supreme Court if needed – and I hope she and her family win this case. Zero tolerance needs to be tempered with common sense…