On Second Thought, Maybe a Strip Search for Advil Isn't Reasonable


Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit sided (PDF) with Savana Redding, the Arizona student who was strip-searched in 2003 by school officials searching for contraband ibuprofen:

On the basis of an uncorroborated tip from the culpable eighth grader, public middle school officials searched futilely for prescription-strength ibuprofen by strip-searching thirteen-year-old honor student Savana Redding. We conclude that the school officials violated Savana's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. The strip search of Savana was neither "justified at its inception," as a grossly intrusive search of a middle school girl to locate pills with the potency of two over-the-counter Advil capsules, "reasonably related in scope to the circumstances" giving rise to its initiation. Because these constitutional principles were clearly established at the time that middle school officials directed and conducted the search, the school official in charge is not entitled to qualified immunity from suit for the unconstitutional strip search of Savana.

The six-to-five decision overturns a 2007 ruling by a three-judge 9th Circuit panel that upheld the search. I wrote about the case in a column last April.