Melissa Mellor

Whole Child in the News: Supreme Court Affirms Student Rights

Today's Supreme Court decision that the strip search of student Savana Redding was a violation of the Fourth Amendment is a clear affirmation of student rights and a stirring lesson about civics, law, and students' constitutional protections.

But it's difficult to call anyone in the particular case of Safford Unified School District v. Redding a winner.

Certainly not the school district officials who have battled this case in court for years and have faced severe public disapproval over their decision to strip-search a 13-year-old girl for prescription-strength ibuprofen.

Not April Redding, Savana's mother, whose trust in school officials was broken after the incident and who has spent the past few years fighting for her daughter's rights in court.

And not Savana Redding, who was so traumatized by her experience that she didn't return to school after the incident and is still dealing with the emotional repercussions. She eventually transferred to other schools but never earned her high school diploma.

ASCD Executive Director Gene Carter says, "We firmly believe this case highlights how intrusive student searches undermine the essential relationship between school personnel and students and their families, which should be built on mutual trust and understanding."

The good news is that the case sets an important and much needed precedent for school officials. Savana Redding says she is pleased with the ruling because she doesn't want other students to go through what she experienced. Experts agree that school officials, formerly given wide latitude to search for contraband in schools, will now have to carefully consider the intrusiveness of their searches and avoid strip searches except for the rarest and most extreme circumstances when the safety of other students and staff is in serious and imminent jeopardy. 

Educators have plenty of disciplinary tools and measures to ensure student safety, as well as an obligation to act well before a strip search would ever be needed. Schools should  

  • Prevent behavioral issues by teaching students to make appropriate choices.
  • Foster strong, trusting school climates and an open dialogue between students and adults.
  • Proactively involve parents and students in determining appropriate and solution-focused disciplinary action.

What do you think about the Supreme Court's decision? How can schools and parents work together to ensure the safety of all students while respecting individual student rights?

Share |

Blog Archive

Blog Tags