Thursday, August 12, 2010

Strip Searches, Reason and Ethics

On April 21st, 2009 the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments concerning Safford Unified School District #1 v. Redding, the case of a 13-year-old eighth-grade girl in Arizona who was strip-searched in the hunt for non-narcotic, normally legal ibuprofen pills. No such pills were found. School authorities suspected that the pills had been brought into school in higher prescription-only strength: one pill was believed to be as strong as two Advils. The girl’s parents sued the school district.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled that school officials had violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches. The school district carried it to the higher court.

The Supreme Court, in an 8-to-1 decision in June 2009, Justice Thomas dissenting, found that the Arizona school authorities did indeed violate the student’s constitutional rights.

What kind of mentality authorizes a strip-search to find pills which any kid, especially menstrual adolescents, can carry for relief? To be sure, the school district of Safford, Arizona had a no-tolerance policy against the possession of controlled substances in school. But what kind of ethical genius sees himself following a categorical imperative by broadly interpreting a policy which itself undercuts the moral independence of its administrators?

To examine these issues further, see The Ethical Miseducation of Educators


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