Pubdate: Thu, 16 Feb 2012
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2012 Athens Newspapers Inc
Author: Greg Bluestein
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


ATLANTA - A Georgia middle school student claimed in a lawsuit 
Wednesday he was humiliated and traumatized when he was brought to a 
vice principal's office and forced to strip in front of classmates 
who said he had marijuana.

The student, then in the seventh-grade, said he still suffers from 
emotional distress because his classmates taunted him by calling him 
Superman, the underwear he was wearing when he was strip-searched. 
The student is suing the Clayton County School District for 
unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

Clayton County school officials didn't immediately respond to 
requests for comment about the lawsuit, filed in federal court.

The student, identified in court documents as D.H., said officials at 
Eddie White Academy initially strip-searched three other students on 
Feb. 8, 2011, after suspecting they had marijuana. One of them 
accused D.H. of having drugs, and he was brought to then-Vice 
Principal Tyrus McDowell's office.

While the three classmates watched, D.H.'s pockets and book bag were 
searched but didn't find anything, the lawsuit said. One of the 
students told school officials he had lied about D.H. having drugs, 
but administrators continued the search as D.H. begged to be taken to 
the bathroom for more privacy, according to the lawsuit.

D.H. was ordered to strip and again, no drugs were found.

"The strip searches were done intentionally, willfully, wantonly, 
maliciously, recklessly, sadistically, deliberately, with callous 
indifference to their consequences," according to the lawsuit, which 
also names as defendants the county's sheriff's department and Ricky 
Redding, the school's resource officer.

The student's attorney, Gerry Weber, said a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court 
ruling found school officials can't perform even a partial strip 
search of a student, even if they have probable cause.

Weber also litigated a case nearly a decade ago in which the federal 
appeals court in Atlanta found that a mass strip search of Clayton 
County students was unconstitutional because it violated their Fourth 
Amendment rights, which protect against an unreasonable search and seizure.

"This is like deja vu," said Weber. "It is simply beyond belief that 
students are still being stripped naked in the Clayton County schools."

Redding, who was also accused in the complaint of being involved in 
the search, was fired about a month later, the lawsuit said. McDowell 
was placed on administrative leave before subsequently resigning.

Redding declined to comment and McDowell could not be reached.

The student's mother, Angela Dawson, said her son still hasn't recovered.

"This situation has broken the very foundation of my child's 
education because in order for him to learn, he has to believe that 
what schools are trying to teach him is right and now he questions 
them after they stripped him of his clothes and dignity," she said. 
"His trust is broken."
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