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.