orichalcum: (teacher)
orichalcum ([personal profile] orichalcum) wrote2009-04-22 11:41 am

The Supreme Court deals with underwear and colliding tubas.

From yesterday's hearing in Safford v. Redding, on whether a school had the right to strip-search a 13-year-old girl on suspicion that she might have prescription-strength Ibuprofen on her person:

Justice Breyer: "In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day. We changed for gym, O.K.? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear.”

Justice Scalia: “You’ve searched everywhere else. By God, the drugs must be in her underpants.”

Sadly, it seems like the plaintiff may lose this case, because most of the justices appear to be taking the position, as Justice Souter put it, "that they'd rather have one kid embarassed than another kid dead."

It's not that I think drug abuse in schools isn't a problem. But I really do wonder if these (older, male) Justices have any real idea of how far beyond "embarrassing" it would be for a sensitive 13-year-old girl to have to pull open her underwear and bra in front of multiple strange adults, _especially_ when the evidence that she might be hiding non-illegal, minor drugs is extremely minimal and based on the accusation from an untrustworthy student. This is _not_ like changing in the gym - and I don't know about boys' locker rooms, but in the girls' locker room in my middle school, many girls either changed behind a bathroom stall or perfected the art of rapidly switching tops and shorts such that no substantial portion of skin was ever humiliatingly exposed, much less touched by a teacher.

Thanks to Dahlia Lithwick, I think that Justice Ginsburg (who turns out to be both brilliant _and_ funny) summed it up best in another recent school case on drug testing for students in all school activities, Pottawatomie School District vs. Earls, when

For its part, the United States acknowledges that "the linebacker faces a greater risk of serious injury if he takes the field under the influence of drugs than the drummer in the halftime band," but parries that "the risk of injury to a student who is under the influence of drugs while playing golf, cross country, or volleyball (sports covered by the policy in Vernonia) is scarcely any greater than the risk of injury to a student ... handling a 1500-pound steer (as [Future Farmers of America] members do) or working with cutlery or other sharp instruments (as [Future Homemakers of America] members do)." Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 18. One can demur to the Government's view of the risks drug use poses to golfers, cf. PGA TOUR, Inc. v. Martin, 532 U. S. 661, 687 (2001) ("golf is a low intensity activity"), for golfers were surely as marginal among the linebackers, sprinters, and basketball players targeted for testing in Vernonia as steer-handlers are among the choristers, musicians, and academic-team members subject to urinalysis in Tecumseh.3 Notwithstanding nightmarish images of out-of-control flatware, livestock run amok, and colliding tubas disturbing the peace and quiet of Tecumseh, the great majority of students the School District seeks to test in truth are engaged in activities that are not safety sensitive to an unusual degree. There is a difference between imperfect tailoring and no tailoring at all. "

OTOH, from yesterday's hearing, Justice Alito, on the issue of reasonable suspicion of students: "The school could keep records on its students, like the police keep records on confidential informants, so unless this student had a proven record of having accurately ratted out a certain number of classmates in the past, she couldn't be believed."

[identity profile] holmes-iv.livejournal.com 2009-04-22 07:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Justice Ginsburg also apparently gave Breyer the what-for after that remark, on roughly the grounds you cite. My own personal reaction to this case is a sort of multi-tiered head-desking: wow, that's a very thorough search on very flimsy grounds, seems pretty bad on its face—oh, but they felt they had to be really careful, because they thought she might have ... ADVIL????

[identity profile] orichalcum.livejournal.com 2009-04-22 07:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes. Personally, I regularly carried 800 mg or more of Advil to school when I was 13, because I needed it sometimes!

[identity profile] digitalemur.livejournal.com 2009-04-22 09:39 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeah, I carried at least two full doses of Tylenol to school quite regularly. I can pretty much guarantee you that the number one reason kids bring analgesics to school against school rules is menstrual cramps. As women are more prone to migraines and men don't get menstrual cramps, these rules impact young women more than young men.

Also, these male justices fail to recognize that there's a big difference in what you see in a boys' locker room these days compared to a girls' locker room. We all changed under our clothes or in our shower stalls, in my middle school.

[identity profile] orichalcum.livejournal.com 2009-04-22 10:07 pm (UTC)(link)
And you managed to deal with livestock run amok, I suspect, despite your drugged state!

[identity profile] cerebralpaladin.livejournal.com 2009-04-23 03:49 am (UTC)(link)
In general, I find that people of our parents' generation and older tend to assume a great deal more nudity in gym locker rooms than I (or the relatively small number of other people our age I've talked to about it) actually experienced. There tends to be a lot of assumption of naked showering, where in my experience it was pretty much "quick reduction to underwear and then redressing."

[identity profile] meepodeekin.livejournal.com 2009-04-23 02:06 am (UTC)(link)
Are you kidding? I had a whole bottle! This is ridiculous. I don't come from the public school, metal detector, etc. world so it is even more shocking for me. Once when I was in school a kid was caught with a gun on campus and they still didn't start searching us, even cursorily. I'm even more glad now that my (weirdly conservative) parents paid to send me to a hippie day school.

[identity profile] lastclearchance.livejournal.com 2009-04-23 06:22 am (UTC)(link)
Er, I meant to type a comment about how once again, an Onion joke is not so funny anymore.