Police in Schools

Students Harassed in Futile Schoolwide Drug Raid File Civil Rights Lawsuit

The suit accuses officers of violating the teens' Fourth and 14th Amendment rights.

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The local sheriff's department subjected 900 students at Worth County High School in Georgia to a warrantless (and fruitless) search for drugs in April; in the course of the raid, cops grabbed many teens' breasts or genitalia. Now nine of those students, with the help of the Southern Center for Human Rights, have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Albany Division, against Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby and several deputies.

The students say their Fourth and 14th Amendment rights, as well as similar rights under the Georgia state constitution, were violated during the search.

According to the suit's account of events, all the students "were confined either to their first-period classrooms, to the hallways immediately outside their classrooms, or to the gym" and their "cell phones were seized so that they could not reach their parents….During the lockdown and mass search, Defendants restricted students' access to restrooms. Some students were not permitted to go to the restroom for the entire four-hour lockdown period."

The suit claims that the deputies "inserted fingers inside girls' bras, and pulled up girls' bras, touching and partially exposing their bare breasts," "touched girls' underwear by placing hands inside the waistbands of their pants or reaching up their dresses," "touched girls' vaginal areas through their underwear," and "cupped or groped boys' genitals and touched their buttocks through their pants."

The suit alleges that a female deputy, Brandi Whiddon, searched a 16-year-old plaintiff—known in the suit as K.A.—by taking "one of K.A.'s arms, plac[ing] it higher up on the wall, and kick[ing] her legs to open them wider. Whiddon pulled the front of K.A.'s bra away from her body by the underwire and flipped it up. Whiddon also looked down the back and front of K.A.'s dress. Whiddon slid her hands from one of K.A.'s ankles up to her pelvic area. Whiddon's hands went underneath K.A.'s dress as Whiddon felt up K.A.'s leg. Whiddon's hands stopped on and cupped K.A.'s vaginal area and buttocks. Whiddon then slid her hands down to the other ankle. Whiddon was wearing gloves, but did not change them before or after her search of K.A."

Another plaintiff, known by the initials J.E., told The Washington Post that during the search a male officer lined students up against a wall and "came up under my privates and then he grabbed my testicles twice….I wanted to turn around and tell him to stop touching me. I wanted it to be over and I just wanted to call my dad because I knew something wasn't right."

The school district, though not a plaintiff, agrees that the students' account of what happened is accurate. The suit says that school officials never agreed to allow their students to be searched en masse.

The Post quotes a statement from the sheriff admitting only that "one of the deputies had exceeded the instructions given by the Sheriff and conducted a pat down of some students that was more intrusive than instructed by the Sheriff"; the statement claims that the sheriff has taken unspecified "corrective action to insure that this behavior will not occur again."

Although everyone was searched, the sheriff had a "target list" of 13 students he suspected of having drugs, only three of whom were even in school that day. The plaintiffs are suing on behalf of all the students except the trio on the sheriff's "target list." Those three, according to the suit, "were detained and searched in administrative offices at the school, rather than in the hallways or gym with the rest of their classmates."

The students are seeking "Compensatory damages, in an amount to be determined by the jury," along with punitive damages, a judgment that the search violated the students' rights, and reimbursement of the lawsuit's expenses.

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  1. All Hail the War on Drug Suspects! And we are ALL drug suspects!

  2. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear from being detained incommunicado for hours and groped by agents of the state.

  3. Government is just another word for the teenagers we choose to kidnap and molest together.

  4. Jury, take note: a just award would include, but not be limited to, each and every deputy involved, as well as the sheriff, getting shitcanned.

    1. CX, are you engaging in constitutionally protected speech to try and influence a jury? Don’t you know that’s the worst crime imaginable?

      1. If he answers you, that’s mansplaining, and that’s a worse crime. (I have to assume white male because anyone else would self-report their self-identity in the very first sentence.)

        1. I’m trans-racial, you dick.

          1. Then you’ve fallen under the sway of white males. How else to explain that you didn’t post that right at the beginning?

            1. Beginningness is a cishet patriarchal construct.

              1. I’d stand corrected, but that would be an ablist privilege.

          2. Me too. I identify as a Kryptonian Vulcan Gallifreyan.

  5. ‘It is the mission of the Worth County Sheriff’s Office to work in partnership with the citizens of Worth County toward providing a safe environment while enhancing the quality of life consistent with the values, upstanding morals and diversity of the community. We are committed to the enforcement of laws, the protection of life and property, while respecting individual rights, human dignity and community morals and values at all times.’

    I would say the community has a case for libel there if the SO is claiming this is consistent with the morals and values of the community. Or maybe it is, and Worth County’s a worse shithole than I thought.

  6. Disgusting. Good luck with that lawsuit because I have a feeling they’re gonna need it.

  7. ” . . .a “target list” of 13 students he suspected of having drugs, only three of whom were even in school that day.”

    Classic stoner behavior.

    1. Shit man, they were late to their own sting!

      1. they musta heard the piano player…. and decided to detour. Good move.

  8. Well, it is a school, and it (probably) has student athletic programs, so each and every student should file a title IX charge against each and every officer there.

  9. “Is this going to be on the test?”

  10. Surprise! Someone likes the ladies.

    http://bit.ly/2sLx7v4

    1. Oh god, the first item on their registry.

      I’m’a still eat hamburgers, but i’m not gonna be comfortable about it for a while.

  11. So this is how one goes about fondling many almost one-thousand teenagers.

    *takes notes*

  12. Good! Sue them into penury.

  13. And yet, every single day, all across the country, children much younger than this are subjected to much worse treatment by police, including but not limited to being set on fire by incendiary devices, watching parents gunned down by police, and being grievously injured by police bullets. (All taking place in the children’s own homes.) But as long as the police can pretend they’re looking for drugs it’s okay with America, right? But only, it seems, if they find drugs? Would this raid have been less reprehensible had it not been “fruitless”? Remembering that no drugs were found when that baby in Georgia was set on fire, either, and that in any search, “Drugs!” are found only AFTER the shooting/tasing/choking/groping/grenade launching ends, what drugs, in what amounts, would justify, in any sane society, the level of violence used during drug raids? An ounce of pot? A gram of meth? A couple of Vicodin tablets? What’s the threshold here? Well, that’s just the thing, ain’t it? There IS no “threshold.” Police do pretty much whatever the fuck they want, and get away with it. This is the drug war, folks, in all its glory, that’s been going on against the rest of us for decades. And the children the drug warriors are always screaming about “protecting? Who were once mere collateral, then found to be useful weapons, have become targets. What else does it take to wake people up?

  14. “Join the Police Force, Pedophiles Welcome!”

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