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Strip Searches Allowed in Montco Schools?

A change in one Lehigh Valley district's policy leads others to question the legality of strip searches in schools. See how your district stacks up.

As a school district in the Lehigh Valley passes a motion to allow strip searches of its students, local districts may soon be taking a closer look at the measure.

According to the Morning Call, Palisades School Board adopted a policy last week to allow “strip searches when other students and the staff are believed to be in danger.”

"It would have to be something extreme. ... If there's imminent danger, we would probably do what is necessary,'' Director Stephen Kunkel, who is on the board's policy review committee, said to the Call.

Back in 2009, the topic made national news when a student in Arizona was strip searched after another student accused her of having prescription medications on her person.

According to teachablemoments.com, the girl never returned to her Safford Middle School due to embarrassment.

“Writing for the majority in an 8-1 decision, Justice David Souter declared that administrators at Safford Middle School made a ‘quantum leap’ in going further,” said the article.

“The meaning of such a search, and the degradation its subject may reasonably feel, place a search that intrusive in a category of its own demanding its own specific suspicions,” said the written decision.

The Supreme Court went on to rule that a strip search must be “reasonably related to the objectives of the search and not excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and nature of the infraction.”

In other words, there has to be a really good reason to allow for a search of this nature.

According to Phillyburbs.com, the Arizona girl’s search went too far according to the courts.

“Officials did not have a sufficient reason to extend their search, which had included the child’s school bag and locker,” said the article. “However, two female school employees had Redding strip down to her underwear, shake her bra and pull out the elastic band to expose her breasts and pelvic area. No ibuprofen was found.”

The recent additions to Palisades’ policies and the 2009 court decision have raised concerns in local districts. Pottstown and Wissahickon policies do not specifically state it as such, but seem to have policies that would allow a strip search. Most other districts in the county do not have a policy to address the matter at all.

When writing on both Bucks and Montgomery counties, Phillyburbs.com found the same.

“But most local school districts have no specific policy on strip searches of students,” said its article.

Where do Montgomery County’s districts stand on the subject? Find districts’ policies below to read more.

Abington: Allows for “other searches of students,” which reads: “Searches of students, their motor vehicles, or other possessions may be conducted by district officials when there is a reasonable suspicion that any item or items in violation of district policies, rules, regulations, or local, state or federal law will be found.”

 

Colonial: “Students shall be free from unreasonable search and seizure of property as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Search of individual students shall be based upon reasonable suspicion that the student's person, property or personal automobile contains illegal substances, items or material detrimental to the safety and welfare of other students or staff or in violation of the law or rules of the Student Code. Students are responsible and accountable for the contents of all items found in their lockers, automobiles, bookbags, purses or any bags or containers used to carry personal property.”

Does not mention strip searches

 

Methacton: “The Board acknowledges the need for safe storage of books, clothing, school materials and personal property and may provide lockers for storage purposes. In addition, the Board recognizes that the storage of weapons, drugs, or unsanitary materials in lockers constitutes a health, safety and welfare concern to the school community. Balancing these competing interests, the Board places students on notice that their lockers may be periodically and randomly inspected and searched by officers, agents, and employees of the school district and illegal or unsanitary materials shall be seized and may be used as evidence against the student in disciplinary and other proceedings.”

Does not mention strip searches

 

Norristown: Policy not found online

 

North Penn: “Whenever a school district staff member has reason to believe that a student is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the staff member has the specific responsibility of immediately reporting this suspicion to a building administrator who will escort the student to the health suite.”

Does not mention strip searches, searching personal property online

 

Spring-Ford: “Prior to a search, a student will have the opportunity to be present and permitted to call a parent or another representative. However, where school authorities have reasonable grounds to believe that the locker contains materials which pose a threat to the health, welfare and safety of students in the school, a student’s locker may be searched without prior warning.”

Policy allows for searches of lockers, automobiles 

Does not mention strip searches, searching personal property online

 

Perkiomen Valley: Policy, handbook not accessible by the public

Does not mention strip searches, searching personal property online

 

Pottstown: Under the Student Searches section of the handbook, “Person - In the interest of safety and providing a weapon and drug-free school environment, a student and/or belongings may be searched.”

Allows for the possible use of strip searches

 

Upper Dublin: “Periodic general inspection of lockers may be  conducted by school authorities for health and/or safety reasons at any time, without notice, without student consent, and without a search warrant.”

Does not mention strip searches, searching personal property online

 

Wissahickon: For dances, “Chaperones have the right to search any handbags, book bags, or large parcels. Students are encouraged NOT to bring these items to a dance.”

For computers, “If the District has a reasonable suspicion that the student has violated and/or is violating District rules or policies or any federal, state or local laws, authorized District administrators may take custody of the Computer and review files contained on the Computer.  “Reasonable suspicion” means reasonable grounds exist that the search will uncover evidence that the student violated the law or school rules or District policies.  The scope of the search must be reasonably related to the violation which justified the search.”

For persons, “School administrative personnel shall have the authority to conduct searches in accordance with the law.”

Allows for the possible use of strip searches

For the full PhillyBurbs story, read the link here.

Stephen Eickhoff February 21, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Clearly, if children are being strip searched in schools, an article about the issue is appropriate. Sticking our heads in the sand won't make the issue go away.
Bill February 24, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Google "teachers accused of sex" 40 search pages and the links are not even a year old. TSA searches in schools?
Dynamo47 February 25, 2013 at 05:55 PM
I am actually proud to have been a product of the Colonial School District after seeing this article. Of all the districts noted; only the Colonial School District noted the Constitution in their policies! This should be an outrage to any parent and citizen as not only is it illegal, immoral, it is unconstitutional.
Maryanne McDevitt March 21, 2013 at 03:38 PM
With what is going on now in an Elementary School in Wissahickon School District, nothing would surprise me. I'm hoping to get more information about the massive cover up in the elementary school. School personnel are lying and evading and continue to bully students. It is pathetic. I would appreciate any information readers may have about this policy of intimidation, threats and harassment of students and parents by school personnel. Concerned
Maryanne McDevitt March 21, 2013 at 03:40 PM
I have posted a comment about ongoing abuse perpetrated on students and parents by the Wissahickon school district. I would appreciate any information others may wish to share. I would also be happy to share what I know to bring these people to justice.

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