“If the school official’s thought process,” Souter asked, “was ‘I’d rather have a kid embarrassed rather than some other kid dead,’ isn’t that reasonable under the Fourth Amendment?” Stated in that stark way almost compelled agreement, without regard to whether a student singled out for a strip search was actually adding to such a risk, but was only the target of a classmate’s unverified tip.The student's ACLU lawyer seems to be proposing a reasonable framework for such searches; however, the justices don't seem to be buying the idea.
Along with Souter, two other Justices whose votes might turn out to be crucial — Stephen G. Breyer and Anthony M. Kennedy — were plainly more concerned about the drug problem than with student privacy. Both of those Justices, in past cases involving students and suspected drug use, have suggested that students’ rights were not very sturdy.
Adam Wolf, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union who represented the Reddings, said the court should draw a line between "ordinary searches" and strip-searches. He said Savana had no objection to the principal looking through her backpack and belongings.The Court has mandated that there have to be hearings before a student can be suspended from school, so it would seem that they could mandate a two-step possibility for the more intrusive search. Knowing what kids can be like, I worry that, if the Court upholds the power of school administrators to conduct strip searches on the basis of one student's accusation, we'll see other students seeking to cast suspicion on other kids just to force them to submit to such a search. Apparently, the student who made the accusation in this case was never disciplined when it became clear that her accusation was false.
Wolf said that the vice principal had no reason to believe pills were hidden in her underwear, so the strip-search was unreasonable. A Justice Department lawyer also urged a limit on strip-searches.
School administrations and school boards can make their own reasonable rules regarding such searches. They don't need the Supreme Court to determine what is reasonable. But that is where the question has landed and so we get such moments as this priceless gem from Stephen Breyer that cracked up everyone in the courtroom, particularly Clarence Thomas.
"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, OK? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear."Right. Poor little Stephen being bullied by other kids sticking things in his underwear. That's a mental image you didn't need to start the day, was it? Somehow, I don't want to picture any of the justices roaming around their school locker rooms in their underwear.