9th Circuit to Reexamine Student Strip-Search Case

By Mark Walsh — January 31, 2008 1 min read
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A federal appeals court today said it would take a fresh look at a case in which a student is challenging being strip-searched by school officials looking for prescription drugs.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, said in a brief order that the full court had voted to rehear the case of Redding v. Safford Unified School District.

The full court essentially set aside this September 2007 decision by a three-judge 9th Circuit panel that upheld the Safford, Ariz., district and various school officials over the student search.

According to that decision, middle school student Savanna Redding was searched as part of an investigation into prescription drug possession by students at the school in 2003. After receiving a report that Redding had been distributing Ibuprofen pills to fellow students, school officials searched the girl’s backpack, then asked a female administrative assistant to search Redding’s clothing. Redding had to remove her pants, lift the waist band of her underpants, and lift her shirt and pull out her bra band, according to court papers. No contraband was found.

Redding and her parents challenged the school officials’ actions as a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches.

The 9th Circuit panel ruled 2-1 that the search was reasonable and that school officials were protected by qualified immunity. The dissenting judge said Supreme Court precedents in the area should give parents assurance that “their children will not be stripped and searched for giving another student the equivalent of two Advils.”

Because the 9th Circuit court has such a large number of judges, its “en banc” rehearings don’t usually involve all of the court’s judges, but simply a larger number than the three-judge panel that originally heard the case.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.