Savana Redding's School Was Wrong to Strip Search Her

What Women Really Think
June 25 2009 1:02 PM

Savana Redding's School Was Wrong to Strip Search Her

/blogs/xx_factor/2009/06/25/the_supreme_court_rules_that_the_strip_search_of_student_savana_redding_was_unconstitutional/jcr:content/body/slate_image

The Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional this morning the strip search of Savana Redding, the 13-year-old student who was supposed to have somehow been hiding prescription ibuprofen in her underwear, only wasn't. That's a relief. At oral argument, some of the male justices got all jokey about their own school experiences of people sticking things in their underwear in middle school while they were changing for gym. That particular reminiscence came from Justice Stephen Breyer: Here's Dahlia's great write-up of the argument . And today, Justice David Souter specifically notes, in his majority opinion, that "changing for gym is getting ready for play." A strip search in response to an accusation, by contrast, is "fairly understood as so degrading that a number of communities have decided that strip searches in schools are never reasonable and have banned them no matter what the facts may be." I want to live in one of those places.

Advertisement

It is nice to hear Souter's sober tones, and to see that he speaks for all the justices but Thomas in deeming this search out of bounds under the Fourth Amendment. But the best lines and real feeling come from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's part concurrence, part dissent. (She and Justice John Paul Stevens didn't think the school district officials deserved immunity from suit. The other six justices in the majority did.) Ginsburg points out that after the search, the school official in charge made things worse by making Savana Redding "sit on a chair outside his office for over two hours." She calls his behavior "abusive." Twice. I am glad that the men on the court got religion on this one. But I give Ginsburg the credit

For much more discussion on the court's end-of-term cases, read Dahlia's great dialogue with Linda Greenhouse and Walter Dellinger . Linda will post in a minute on the ruling in Redding.

Photograph of Savana Redding by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Emily Bazelon is a Slate senior editor and the Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.