Will the Supreme Court Endorse Advil Strip Searches?


On Friday the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Savana Redding, the Arizona student who was strip-searched in 2003, when she was 13, by public school officials looking for contraband ibuprofen. That's probably not good news, since last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the search, which discovered nary a painkiller in Savana's crotch or cleavage, violated her Fourth Amendment rights. Eight of the 11 judges agreed the search was unconstitutional, and six agreed that the law was clear enough at the time to make Kerry Wilson, the assistant principal who ordered it, ineligible for qualified immunity. The second part of the decision, which left Wilson open to liability, is especially vulnerable: If the trial judge and three of the appeals court judges thought the search was permissible under the relevant precedents, was it fair to expect an assistant principal to know better? But the Supreme Court could well go further, endorsing the kind of egregious trespass that Redding suffered in the name of protecting kids from drugs (even, as in this case, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). As I argued last summer, that would not be a huge leap from the Court's decisions approving random urine testing of public school students.

My columns on the case are here and here. The 9th Circuit's decision is here (PDF). The ACLU, which is representing Savana and her mother, has background here.