Pubdate: Mon, 06 Aug 2007
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2007 The Baltimore Sun, a Times Mirror Newspaper.
Author: Chris Guy
Bookmark: (Youth)


2 Women Get Apologies, Are Awarded $285,000 For Experience During 
High School Drug Sweep

Three years after they were strip-searched during a  drug sweep at 
Kent County High School, two former  students have been awarded 
$285,000 in damages, plus  apologies from school and Sheriff's 
Department  officials.

The American Civil Liberties Union Monday announced the  terms of the 
agreement to settle a lawsuit filed by the  students, Heather Gore 
and Jessica Bedell. They were  15-year-old sophomores when they were 
searched by a  female sheriff's deputy April 16, 2004.

Drug-sniffing dogs scanned 250 student backpacks in a  dozen 
classrooms at the high school in Worton, about 10  miles from 
Chestertown, and 16 other students were  "patted down" by deputies. 
No drugs were found that  day, and no similar raids have been staged 
at the  school.

"I'm very excited it's finally all over," Gore, 18,  said Monday. "It 
took a large emotional toll."

State ACLU officials say the settlement is the largest  monetary 
award in Maryland in a police misconduct case.

"I told our clients that the apology might actually be  the most re 
warding aspect because it's the hardest to  get," said Deborah A. 
Jeon, the state ACLU's legal  director. "We think this is very significant. "

The insurance carrier for the school system has agreed  to pay 
$67,500 to Gore and $57,500 to Bedell. The  insurer will pay an 
additional $160,000 to the two on  behalf of the Sheriff's Department.

Gore, who said she plans to use her share for college,  said her 
embarrassment was compounded by living in a  small town.

"I think if you live in a small community, everybody  knows 
everything, and that just makes something like  this harder to deal 
with," said Gore. "In a small  place, the police seem to think they 
know everything.  Now, hopefully, they'll realize they don't."

She said that as part of the search, a female deputy  ordered her to 
remove her skirt and lifted her tank  top, exposing her breasts. The 
deputy then checked  Gore's underwear. Bedell, also 18, said a deputy 
lifted  her skirt.

Bedell said the experience has reinforced her ambition  to attend law 
school. She took her final high school  classes at nearby Chesapeake 
College, then enrolled in  an accelerated program at Salisbury 
University. She is  set to graduate in December.

"After what had happened, I had no desire to be on that  high school 
campus," Bedell said. "We've seen the legal  system work the way it's 
supposed to."
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