Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in Safford v. Redding

BoardBuzz thinks the Washington Post gets it right in today’s editorial when it says the “Supreme Court must weigh the rights of students against the duty of school officials to protect safety” in a case involving the search of 13-year old student.

The high court hears oral argument tomorrow in Safford v. Redding. The Post argues that while the incident was no walk in the park for the student and perhaps could have been better handled by school officials, it doesn’t “amount to a constitutional breach so egregious that school officials should be subjected as individuals to possible legal liability.” And, the Post maintains, “Neither the law nor common sense compels such a conclusion.”

Not all national newspapers have been so thoughtful. In an editorial last Friday, for instance, USA Today opined that the search of the student in this case “reflects [the] outgrowth of [an] inflexible mindset.” USA Today also minimizes the negative impact non-prescription drugs are having on America’s teens, saying, “Last time we checked, the war on drugs did not include ibuprofen, and it’s hard to imagine any parent who would not be infuriated by a strip search of his 13-year-old daughter. Such is the absurdity of zero-tolerance policies — be they aimed at drugs, weapons or sexual harassment. They assume that students don’t have rights and that school officials don’t have brains.” Yowsa!

Helpful as USA Today’s language may be in selling papers, BoardBuzz thinks it misses the mark. As NSBA General Counsel Francisco Negrón said in Friday’s Op-Ed piece also in USA Today, schools are faced with the impact of the abuse of non-prescription drugs among teens. See, also NSBA’s amicus brief here. The federal government’s Office of National Drug Control Policy reported just last year that prescription-drug abuse among youth is increasing at an alarming rate. BoardBuzz wonders whether USA Today’s view might be tempered by that report and its findings that over 7,000 children fall victim to drug abuse each year through prescription drugs

USA Today could learn a lesson from Post’s measured response to this emotionally charged case. As the Post editors wrote, “The Supreme Court should strike down the lower-court ruling [against the school]. School officials must have the flexibility to act quickly and decisively to avert all manner of danger. Fear of being sued for making reasonable if controversial judgment calls will only chill these efforts. ” Hear, hear.

fnegron|April 20th, 2009|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Security, Student Achievement|


  1. Matt T says:

    While I was horrified by the crimes perpetrated by school officials against Savana Redding, those feelings have since deepened into a thorough sense of disgust at the school district and associations (National School Boards Association and American Association of School Administrators) that have risen to the defense of this abhorrent behavior. This case has huge implications for both sides (educators and students), and in my personal belief, it is a huge loss for both should Redding lose this case. Educators and their associations should be focusing on the risks inherent to the educator’s safety if they legitimize abusing a child. If this case is lost, it will lead to an increase in strip-searches, which in turn will lead to an increase in exposure of educators to dangerous repercussions. In all but the most severe cases, strip-searches are counterproductive and unnecessary. In Savana’s case they were unusually lucky that Savana’s father isn’t in the picture. Future strip-searchers wouldn’t always be so lucky. Parents tend to get very emotional and irrational in cases which involve harm to their children.
    If there are concerns about drugs, and a normal search comes up empty, the parents should be notified and be brought in to supervise the strip search or have the option of bringing the police into the matter if that makes them more comfortable. I personally would have the police do it, since it would have less long term impact on my child. The police officer is not someone they have to walk past every day. Having them relive that humiliation every day would be too much to ask any child to deal with.
    The district in this case should have settled early and fired the administrator, plain and simple. The association is not protecting either students or administrators by supporting this case.
    If your associations continue to support the administrator this case, the adults in my district will be petitioning my administrators and school district to distance themselves from this kind of behavior by removing themselves from your associations.
    On a personal note, I know for a fact that my 12 year old daughter would be completely devastated by a strip-search. She has recently started puberty, and it has driven her from being outgoing and engaging to being shy, self-conscious and uncertain. I’m certain it will take years for her to adjust. Being such a sensitive time, a trauma like this could easily alter the entire course of her development and life.
    I will be instructing my son and daughter to never ever allow anyone to strip-search them. They are to insist upon calling their parents regardless of the outcome of this case.
    I respectfully ask you and your members to consider reason and not support the administrator and school district in this case.

  2. Rachel says:

    I concur with the above comment. The publicity surrounding the Savanna Redding case was a huge blot on the reputation of public education, and — despite being a school board member — I would not send my child to a school where I thought that could possibly happen.

  3. […] may possess harmful drugs in violation of school policy. BoardBuzz previously covered this case in April during our discussion of the Washington Post’s article that wisely recognized the Court’s need […]

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