Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 12, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THE IBUPROFEN EPIDEMIC....Today's legal news in the LA Times started soporifically enough:

Schools may not strip-search students for drugs based on an unverified tip, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

Sure. Sounds reasonable. I wonder what this was all about? Answer: Advil.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said an assistant principal at an Arizona middle school violated the constitutional rights of a 13-year-old by ordering her to be strip-searched. He thought the honor student had prescription-strength ibuprofen....

The girl stood in her bra and underwear while the two officials searched her clothes. Then she was ordered to partially remove her bra, exposing her breasts, and finally told to shake out the crotch of her underwear.

"Hiding her head so that the adults could not see that she was about to cry, Savana complied and pulled out her underwear, revealing her pelvic area," [Judge Kim McLane] Wardlaw wrote. "No ibuprofen was found."

The ruling was 6-5. Two of the dissenters ruled on technical grounds, but three of them concluded, basically, that school administrators can do anything, anytime, including strip searches of 13-year-old girls, no matter how unconvincing the evidence of misbehavior or how remote the possibility of danger is. "Admittedly," they wrote, "ibuprofen is one of the mildest drugs children could choose to abuse. But that does not mean it is never harmful....Importantly, Wilson was not searching for evidence of past ibuprofen use, such as an empty Advil bottle. He was acting on specific information that children in school had pills and were planning on taking them later that day."

Italics mine, all mine. And I'm sure I speak for all of us when I thank God that someone had the courage to take appropriate action against the possibility of teenage girls tossing down an Advil before 5th period. Do we all feel safer now?

Kevin Drum 11:56 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (99)

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Every day I ask myself, can it get any more absurd? Then it does without fail.

Posted by: namvetted on July 12, 2008 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

I was once prescribed ibuprofen and was confused as to why "prescription-strength" ibuprofen even exists. According to the bottle, it was just 400mg ibuprofen pills. Perhaps some reader with more understanding of medicine than I could explain to me how taking one 400mg pill is any different than taking two of the standard 200mg pills you can get over the counter at any gas station?

Posted by: Will Hutchinson on July 12, 2008 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Law and order, be-atch!!

(Actually, this is shockingly repugnant, which is saying something for Bush's Amerika.)

Posted by: John McCain: More of the Same on July 12, 2008 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Zero Tolerance is the worse development to hit the public school system. It forces schools to take draconian measures and takes all of the judgment out of the school's hands to deal proportionally and sanely with something as innocuous as a good kid with an ibuprofen.

Posted by: on July 12, 2008 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Come on, everyone knows you have to crush and snort ibuprofen to get the full high. Mainlining 'Ibies' is all that rage these days, replacing glue and sharpies.

Posted by: TomStewart on July 12, 2008 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, the zero-tolerance crapola! A friend of mine's daughter was not allowed to use her inhaler during an asthma attack because they didn't have a current note from her doctor. Mind you, the girl was a teenager and had been asthmatic since she was two ...

Posted by: CD on July 12, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

There is no difference between "prescription strength" ibuprofen and just taking more tablets of over-the-counter ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is one of the safest and most effective anti-inflammatory medicines available. Higher doses tend to lead to more stomach irritation without improving its effectiveness, so there's really no reason to take more than 600mg every 6 hours. At extreme doses for long periods of time, there is the risk of kidney damage. Interestingly, misuse and abuse of Tylenol is significantly more dangerous and leads to many accidental deaths per year.

Posted by: House Whisperer on July 12, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

This assistant principal and others involved in the "search" aren't spending the rest of their lives in jail for sexually abusing a minor in their charge why?

This should be a very clear-cut lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-keys kind of criminal case, and that it isn't says something very sad about our society.

Posted by: R Johnston on July 12, 2008 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Like the man about to be hung said to the judge,

"This is gonna be a good Education to me."

Posted by: deejaayss on July 12, 2008 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

There would only be outrage if the girl was forced to complete a book report on "On The Origin of Species."


Posted by: lobbygow on July 12, 2008 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

The most terrifying things a parent must confront about our children.
1. They will be different than we are.
2. In the long run, there is nothing you can do to avoid this.

Therefore the next generation is to be feared above all else.

Posted by: Art Hackett on July 12, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I hope the court isn't as divided in upholding their criminal sexual assault convictions.

Posted by: Gregory on July 12, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, New York Times magazine celebrity, Rush Limbaugh, can abuse drugs all he likes and get away with it.

Laws are for little people.

Posted by: susan on July 12, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

The school officials who conducted that search ought to be in prison.

Posted by: kc on July 12, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Come on, Kevin. It's not as if a 13-year-old girl would have a legitimate use for ibuprofen.... Huh? What are "menstrual cramps"?

Posted by: Erik on July 12, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

I am a simple country boy and I would probably be the one in jail if someone had done this to my daughter.

I'd venture to say that plenty of oh-so complex city dwellers feel zackly the same way.

Posted by: junebug on July 12, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking as a parent though, I feel sympathy for the school. What is the level of drug that you should search for? Cocaine, but not pot? Crack, but not unprescribed Ritalin? You would end up with the same sort of laws that punish black kids more while the white kids who are passing around their prescriptions like candy get away with murder.

Posted by: Teresa on July 12, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

I thought this was leading to the school administrator being worried about the dangers of taking too many Ibuprofens within a 24 hour period, when in fact he just wanted to see some youngster's privates.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on July 12, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

I've been working in schools for 17 years; any administrator I've known would invite the child to turn out their pockets--then call the parent and have the child picked up with an explanation--and leave the rest to them.
Because they know that there are going to be lawyers camped out on that family's lawn BEGGING to represent them, and that any administrators involved no longer have a career.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on July 12, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

I was sent home from school for chewing Aspergum, that my mother gave me for a sore throat, back in the Sixties.

Posted by: Brojo on July 12, 2008 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Girl, 13, if you have ever been there, you know menstrual cramps are often --for young girls -- severe, enough to cause fainting. Advil is the pain reliever of choice. This whole system is crazy.

Finally, strip searching a young teenage girl is cruel and unusual and potentially really really damaging.

Where is the idea of nurturing and protecting children. What an awful punitive and terribly horribly group of people we have become, about our own children

Posted by: linda Smith on July 12, 2008 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

If they had filmed the procedure, the administrators could have been charged with the possession of kiddie porn.

Thank god no videorecording was involved!

Gotta love that war on drugs.

Posted by: lampwick on July 12, 2008 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Pretty close decision for the most liberal court in the nation. God forbid it was decided by the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th, or DC.

Posted by: B on July 12, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

I'm pleased, but I'm not surprised by the tight vote, and I don't think it's necessarily tight for ideological reasons.

Somehow the majority was able to distinguish various precedents away, including New Jersey v. TLO, which requires only a 'reasonable ' suspicion' (not probable cause) of a violation of a school rule (not a statute). That's a very low hurdle for an administrator to have to clear.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on July 12, 2008 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Ibuprofen isn't a drug of abuse. It doesn't have any kind of "fun" effects. It's the bomb for menstrual cramps, but there isn't any reason to think that kids will "abuse" it. That was just a stupid thing for the assistant principal to do.

Posted by: J Bean on July 12, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Fat White Guy needs to be able to distinguish his condemnation of zero-tolerance policies from determinate sentencing, like three-strikes-and-you're-out, which similarly make judges' lives 'easier becuase they do not have to use any critical thinking'.

They are a gift to us from liberals like Ed Meese.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on July 12, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Savana Redding = Black. Guaranteed.

Posted by: Mary Contrary on July 12, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Teresa, Ibuprofen has no cognitive effects, it is not a drug to abuse. All the other drugs you mention are common drugs to abuse (Cocaine, pot, ritalin, etc.)

Posted by: Jor on July 12, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

The idea a school can strip search a 13 year old girl for ANY reason is repugnant to every notion of liberty in my soul. No one can possibly defend this and people who do defend it on the basis of safety deserve no safety or liberty at all, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin. This is frighteningly close to Nazi-like behavior. God it is so sad how we have lost our way.

Posted by: Jammer on July 12, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Like it or not, children don't have the same constitutional protections that adults have, and the court's dissenters are applying that principle, even though the particular issue, the NSAID epidemic, is laughable.

Who is to blame for such outrageous behaviors? Above, I see the usual suspects paraded out and about, such as George Bush. You are missing the true miscreants- the miscreants are we that actually allow school officials and police officials to conduct such searches and seizures upon school children. The dissenting judges are only pointing out that we have the authority to behave like thugs and morons. If you want to stop such outrages, then stop voting for politicians and school board officials that put such policies in place.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on July 12, 2008 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Good thing this was not a labor related issue, because then Kevin would want the labor rules enforced regardless of constitutionality.

It is the law, invent it as you need to protect your favorite government programs.

Posted by: Matt on July 12, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

School administration. The court-approved new career for child molestors.

Posted by: TG@TG.com on July 12, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

"What is the level of drug that you should search for? Cocaine, but not pot? Crack, but not unprescribed Ritalin?"

Teresa, your conflation of cocaine with ibuprofen by way of weed is like saying people haven't the sense to understand the difference between Midori and anti-freeze because their colors are so similar. Do you mean to say you honestly don't expect the college-educated upper-management of a local school to be able to know that coke and Advil are somehow not the same and should be handled in different ways?

As for Fat White Guy, zero tolerance comes to us directly from Old Mother Reagan and his fear-mongering "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" approach to drugs. It became the buzz word of choice during his reign, and things have only gotten stupider since, thanks to the herd mentality of the the right-wing. If any fault can be laid at liberals feet, it's that they haven't had the courage to call the whole mindless mess for what it is.

Finally, but most important, no school anywhere in this battered republic can ever justify strip-searching any student, end of story. You think your student just broke the law? Put him in a room and call the parents and the cops, but leave your NYPD Blue trip at the door.

Posted by: Riggsveda on July 12, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yea, Lets not forget that other age old liberal rant: "just say no" it has also worked well for the Bushies as a teenage pregnancy deterrent, (that must be why HIV has risen so sharply in the under 20 demographic). As far as kids getting "screwed up" by the school system, from the many teachers I know and have known (and on occasion worked with) over the years, for the past twenty + years, the real problem children pretty much come in as damaged goods from the get go...then the county/state cuts millage for education, but will turn around to build more jails (Now that's planning with a little foresight!...privatized of course). I have watched the education system in my state go completely down the tubes during the 14 year republican reign...we are now at or near the bottom on most things concerning children and youth...circling the drain as I speak. Theres a little reality for you fat boy.

Posted by: benmerc on July 12, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

TG@TG.com - School administration has always been the career of choice for child molestors***. When the vice-principal of a school my brother went to died, his obit in the school magazine said that "he got to know each boy personally" = it was pretty damned personal putting his hand down the front of many boys' underwear.

*** - BTW, I am not suggesting that all school administrators are pervs!

Posted by: blowback on July 12, 2008 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Imagine me having to tell little Timmy, "Yes, son, I used Advil when I was your age. I'm fortunate to have survived. I don't want you to make the same mistakes." The heartbreak of it. I'm so grateful that when I had a headache, my mother would look stern and say, "Life sucks. Deal with it."

Posted by: thersites on July 12, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

I smell a big, BIG settlement. I can only hope it will go some small way to assuaging this poor girls trauma.

The administrators should not only be fired but prosecuted, as mentioned above, for child abuse and/or sexual assault.

Posted by: Cal Gal on July 12, 2008 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

i suggest that the school officials should be strip-searched in front of the entire student body.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on July 12, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

I can kind of see both sides of this case.

School officials are supposed to have same rights as parents while a child is attending school.

But certainly some assistant principal at some Arizona middle school cost the Arizona Educational Department, the state taxpayers, vast sums of money because this assistant principal didn't seem to have any real sense of professional indiscretion.

Posted by: Me_again on July 12, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Something about this fact-pattern sounds very bullshitty to me.

How much you want to bet this is the latest in a series of conservative-orchestrated test-cases to get law made more definite on civil rights/civil liberties/criminal procedure issues all the Nazis would like to have better defined?

Posted by: Swan on July 12, 2008 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

If you think I'm jumping to conclusions-- ask yourself how stupid a school official would have to be to force a middle school honor student to strip to her underwear just to find some unauthorized Advil- it isn't worth it! Even to show a student that you're the authority figure. It's not a school principal's job to push that lesson that far just for the sake of teaching it.

Also, I'm not dumb enough that I'd throw out a guess like this without having noticed other similarly weird things in the legal world over the past few months / years.

Posted by: Swan on July 12, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Having worked as a substitute teacher in a local school district, I cannot understand why this is allowed to happen but 'disciplinary' problems are ignored...

Posted by: brian on July 12, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to think I'd be gobsmacked by this kind of story, but I'm not. Has there ever been a better anecdote supporting power to the parents thru school vouchers? This is one issue where I think the conservatives are correct and the left is being reactionary in supporting the unions and bureaucracy.

Posted by: loki on July 12, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

The yahoo war on drugs is not a result of liberal policies, but in fact a right wing cause celebre. And the no-tolerance policies are right wing favorite policies, like the three strikes rules for prison sentencing, etc. The right wing want everyone to walk lockstep and have no discretion to think, so that they can finger the ones who don't do so more easily. And throw them in jail. A favorite right-wing solution for all social problems, including insanity.

Posted by: Carol on July 12, 2008 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Forgive me if already hashed out, but WTF is the basis for cracking down on people with *legal*, *OTC* medications anyway?

Posted by: Neil B. on July 12, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

If I was her father I would have marched into this assholes office and punched him as hard as I could in the face. Then I would have pulled my child out of the school and started a campaign to have the assistant principle labeled a sex offender.

If he had wanted to press charges, by all means... I suspect a jury would not convict.

Posted by: Adam on July 12, 2008 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK


I agree zero tolerance, like the "war on drugs' in general, is a right wing creation, but the interpretation that it's somehow racist or classist or heteronormative to allow any distinction in enforcement between meth and an aspirin or a cough drop is a liberal gloss put on the policy.

Posted by: loki on July 12, 2008 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

One has to look at the flip-side, what if the assistant principal heard that some student was passing out prescription-strength drugs but fail to follow up on tips. This school officials are responsible for the safety of children in their school building. So not responding to a tip on illegal drugs could cause a lawsuit too if any harm came to any student and it was known that the assistant principal was told of the danger but fail to act to safeguard the saftey of students.

It was a judgement call but I think a very poorly decided one on the part of this assistant principal.

I think people have to be aware that some inner city schools have real problems with criminal behavior and illegal drug activity. In some Phoenix schools there are city police officers assigned to actually patrol the halls inside the school building because illegal drugs have gotten so bad.

Posted by: Me_again on July 12, 2008 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Broad based teacher authority and zero tolerance was part of Bush's 2000 platform:

"We propose special legal protection for teachers to shield them from meritless lawsuits. We advocate a zero-tolerance policy toward all students who disrupt the classroom and we reaffirm that school officials must have the right and responsibility to appropriately discipline all students, including students with disabilities, who are disruptive or violent."

Gore's published platform only advocated zero tolerance for guns in schools.

Posted by: Gonads on July 12, 2008 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

You know, I work at a school), and I would never have imagined in a million years that strip searching a student would *ever* be acceptable. Let alone for hearsay suspicion of possession of ibuprofen.

(There's no such thing as "prescription" ibuprofen. There is "prescription dosage" ibuprofen, but this an over-the-counter drug either way, with *no* abuse or addiction potential).

I'll tell you one thing -- a strip search would not be happening in my school. Despite my lowly position, I would physically make sure it did not happen, if necessary. Sure, I'd get fired, but that would be a small price to pay. Although luckily, I'm pretty sure none of the administrators at my school would be this stupid.

Posted by: teece on July 12, 2008 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

because illegal drugs have gotten so bad

Yeah, the illegal ibuprofen trade is whack in Denver city schools, too. *rolls eyes.*

The drug matters. A lot -- and this was ibuprofen. Even if it were ten pounds of heroin, a strip search should not have been performed. Call the police, if it seems that bad.


Posted by: teece on July 12, 2008 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

We're all shocked because this occurred to a young girl over an Advil, but we basically don't give a shit when these sorts of civil rights violations and other forms of zero tolerance punishment are larded out to others.

Zero Tolerance is the biggest crock of shit ever to come down the pike.

And to the extent that liberals support it in any form, or don't bother to speak out against it, or even stand up at a community forum and ask Barack Obama what he thinks of it, then yeah, we're a bunch of fucking assholes who deserve this shit.

Posted by: jerry on July 12, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Schools may not strip-search students for drugs based on an unverified tip, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

Yes, the judges got it right.

No argument there.

But the court also said this: The search was unjustified, the court said, because officials made no attempt to corroborate the claim by a student who was "cornered" and "seeking to shift blame from herself."

And incidentally the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is the most liberal court in the US.

Posted by: Me_again on July 12, 2008 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK


Ask any liberal you know who's spent more than three days in a public school, as a substitute teacher or in any other capacity, if they would disagree with the Repub platform quote you cited. I don't see any correlation between the quote and the issue we're discussing here. There was no violence or disruption alleged. The rationale the school administration would offer, if pressed, is that they did not/do not want to look selective when they eventually deal with a real disruptive or dangerous situation.

Posted by: loki on July 12, 2008 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK
And incidentally the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is the most liberal court in the US.

Well, at least insofar as the repeated statement of an unsubstantiated claim transforms it into the truth.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 12, 2008 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

According to Reason (http://www.reason.com/news/show/125786.html), the vice principal was not there when the girl was searched. It was done by a female secretary and a female school nurse. Considering those same 13 yr old girls probably have to change for gym class in a communal bathroom, I have a hard time getting too worked up about this.

Schools have zero tolerance for drugs because they are not trained to have to determine which drugs can be abused and which can't. They don't need kids bringing in mom's Sudaphed for instance so their little buddies can cook up some Meth after school. At my son's school, the kids abuse prescription drugs like Ritalin like crazy. They don't pay teachers enough to sit there and say, "This drug is OK, but this one is not."

If a kid has bad menstrual cramps -- or any other need for medication , she can bring a note from home with her medicine and give it to the nurse.

Posted by: Teresa on July 12, 2008 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK
Ask any liberal you know who's spent more than three days in a public school, as a substitute teacher or in any other capacity, if they would disagree with the Repub platform quote you cited.

Hi, I am a liberal, and I was a substitute teacher in middle and high schools in the Vallejo City Unified School District for about half of the year 2000. The platform quote is ridiculous, and a not-inconsequential portion of the problems I saw in the schools in that district were a direct result of the mindless application of such "zero-tolerance" policies. "Zero tolerance" is a cute buzzword, but what it really amounts to is zero attention to context, zero proportionality, zero balance, zero consideration of relative priority, zero dealing with root causes, and zero intelligence.

Violence and disruption are, clearly, always undesirable; the best response and the appropriate punishment (if punishment is the right thing at all, which may not always be the case for disruption) varies by circumstance. "Zero tolerance" policies mean you treat anything in the category as if it were the maximum offense in the category, and fail to make distinctions, and it means, in concrete terms, that administrators don't have time to address actual drug use by students because their too busy processing the multiday suspension of other students for bringing water guns to school.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 12, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK
Schools have zero tolerance for drugs because they are not trained to have to determine which drugs can be abused and which can't.

No, they have "zero tolerance" policies regarding drugs (and lots of other things) because:
1) They provide convenient excuses for administrators to avoid responsible decision-making, and
2) School boards are composed of politicians, and "zero tolerance" is a superficial, easy to sell, substance-free "solution" to problems.

(Note also that there was no drug involved in this case at all, merely the unsubstantiated rumor of one.)

Posted by: cmdicely on July 12, 2008 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps it didn't occur to anyone that the girl might have her period. If you have ever experienced cramps you'd know why a kid was taking the ibuprofen
or whatever she could to stop the pain. I wonder if the school bothered to phone the girls parents...and as someone upstream indicated...this sounds kinda phony...

I have to tell you that my mother was a note writer and would constantly get me excused from PE..which irritated the hell out of the teacher. I too was a parent who actively participated in my son's schooling.....it's our job.

Posted by: avahome on July 12, 2008 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

[re: being strip searched]

>"Like it or not, children don't have the same constitutional protections that adults have"

What makes you think adults have any protection from being forcibly strip searched based on some authorities 'suspicion'?

You'd better not go anywhere near an airport.
Or be stopped while driving in your car
Or walking down the street or...

Most law-abiding Americans have no idea of what law enforcement can do to them based on 'reasonable suspicion'... unless and until it happens to them.

Posted by: Buford on July 12, 2008 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

I was sent home from school for chewing Aspergum, that my mother gave me for a sore throat, back in the Sixties.

Posted by: Brojo on July 12, 2008 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Holy shit. You were in school in the sixties? That means you are in your late 40's at a minimum? Good lord. Every time I have read one of your ridiculous posts here, on one level I mentally gave you a pass because I figured you were like 17 years old. Nineteen tops. (Your overly drmatic prose and infantile political opionins certainly suggest that.) Now you are saying you write the utterly laughable nonsense you do here AND YOU ARE AN ADULT OF FORTY OR FIFTY!!!??? It's fucking mind blowing that someone could live that long and be as utterly stupid and ridiculous as you are. How is it possible? Tell me you're joking.

Posted by: Pat on July 12, 2008 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

When I was in high school -- mid-70s -- I carried in my pants pocket a Bayer Aspirin tin (yes, they were still made of tin, or some base metal) containing aspirin and Chlor-Trimeton, which I used when my hay fever kicked up. No one ever questioned it -- or perhaps ever noticed. I never gave it a second thought. Thank God there was no drug problem at the time, and "zero tolerance" policies did not exist. Ah, we were so naive.

Posted by: Bat of Moon on July 12, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

What percentages of your local school budgets go for:
Buildings and equipment?
Teacher salaries?
Administration salaries?

Some of this money could probably be better spent, taxpayers.

Posted by: slanted tom on July 12, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Jeebus, Pat, ease up, everyone has a right to their opinions. Besides, wouldnt it be better if you tried to help people understand politics instead of foul mouthing them?

Posted by: on July 12, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

And incidentally the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is the most liberal court in the US.

just because it's not loaded with conservatards doesn't make it "liberal", and certainly not because moronic fuckwits like you say so.

Posted by: haha on July 12, 2008 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

There is never an excuse for strip searching a teenager, save only if you think she is about to harm herself or others (I'm talking suicide, not setting a bad example).

"If a kid has bad menstrual cramps -- or any other need for medication , she can bring a note from home with her medicine and give it to the nurse."

Ha! If only! My daughter gets migraines. They aren't too serious if she takes ibuprofen and lies down immediately. We have to get a note from her doctor at the beginning if the year. And provide the medicine at the same time (they keep it in a locked cabinet in the nurse's office). In the original bottle from the store. Failure to follow any of these steps = vomiting child.

One time, the nurse refused to give DD her Advil because the note from the doctor was too old - I brought it in a few months after the beginning of the year, even though I got it in the summer.

Posted by: Emma Anne on July 12, 2008 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK


If you take a deep breath, say "serentity now" three times and reread my posting, you will see we're on the same page on this issue - we both oppose the mindless application of a policy where common sense should be allowed to intrude, but is not. And why not? I would argue it's due to the educational-industrial complex that runs the schools in this country. The best way to combat that seems to me to try to return decision making to the parents, not the bureaucrats, and I can't see why so many on the left are afraid to embrace that philosophy.

Posted by: loki on July 12, 2008 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

When I was substitute teaching I was taught to shun physical contact with students, especially reaching out to shake children's hands if they should attempt an embrace. I cannot imagine any instructor doing such a thing as this administrator for fear of accusations of abuse.

Abuse takes many forms. Safford, AZ is a small farming community, originally settled by Mormons, I think, which might explain the drug phobia and the measures taken against a young female. Nevertheless, students today everywhere are much more susceptible to the arbitrary authority of educational institutions to invade and intervene in their lives. The high school I attended in the Seventies never called the police when a student was busted with illicit drugs. Those students were quietly expelled. Now they call the police and make children's drug use a criminal justice matter.

Abuse takes many forms, and is sometimes replaced for arguments when no sensible rebuttal is available.

Posted by: Brojo on July 12, 2008 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

A friend was under prescribed ibuprofen for a very invasive wisdom tooth removal. He was rolling in pain, scared of taking more...

...And he wasn't even prescribed the maximum OTC dose.

Situations like this just teach kids that there's dangers, not any tools to gauge the danger.

If you don't think this isn't happening to hundreds of kids across the country... You're blind to the mistreatment of teens that is allowed.

Posted by: Crissa on July 12, 2008 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Irony alert: Fat White Guy, above, accuses someone else of avoiding critical thinking...

Posted by: Gregory on July 12, 2008 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

I guess this will come as a surprise to some people, but kids and teenagers have the same civil liberties adults do.

If that weren't the case, the governemnt could just say "There's no freedom of religion for you, young fellow" and put them in a religious school.

That said, the rightwing sure figured out how to lead liberals around by a ring in their nose when they started this drug-war business. Liberals are all about banning smoking and making people wear helmets and almost all of them have agreed to anything when it came to "fighting drugs".

It's pathetic.

Posted by: serial catowner on July 12, 2008 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: mhr on July 12, 2008 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

Well, what do you know! mhr finally got one right!

Posted by: Doug on July 12, 2008 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Lord, save me. Not only do I learn Brojo is 50, he's had access to children as a substitute teacher. My god, those poor innocent creatures.

Posted by: Pat on July 12, 2008 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

If that girl were my daughter, then the assistant principal would need to be very careful in dark places at night, because one night he'd find me waiting with a baseball bat and pliers.

Posted by: koop on July 12, 2008 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary STILL isn't the nominee, Pat ... suck it up.

Posted by: Gonads on July 12, 2008 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't read any of the comments so it's possible someone has already mentioned what I want to point out. When I was a thirteen-year-old girl, I had terrible menstrual cramps. Advil did not exist five decades ago, but it does today and it's excellent for cramps, certainly better than nothing or aspirin.
What sex were the persons who strip-searched this child? Everything about this story is outrageous.

Posted by: Lynn Lightfoot on July 12, 2008 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

This is an interesting discussion thread but there are a couple of things I would like to add. Discipline policies such as student drug use, zero tolerance, etc are set by school boards and not school site administrators (at least where I am). Any changes that need to be made have to be done through the board. If the community has a problem with board policy, they should go to the board meeting and try to change it, or vote for board members who will.

The administrator(s) who made this decision should be released for stupidity at the very least. Many junior high and high school students will do or say anything to get out of trouble, or to get even with someone who they think "dissed" them and it is possible that is how this girls name came up. When getting information concerning drugs, it is vitally important that it comes from several sources and not just one person or people from the same clique. That being said, it is totally within bounds to ask students to turn out their pockets, take off their shoes, and pat them down if one does have a reasonable suspicion (New Jersey v TLO); however, parents should have been notified and given the opportunity to be present for a "strip search" if the POLICE deem it necessary. There is no way in the world I would do that to a student without the parents and the police there, and certainly not for ibuprofen. I usually asked students if they had ibuprofen on them and, if they did, took it from them, at which point they could be suspended for the rest of the day. I know that it is only ibuprofen, but most teachers wouldn't know an ibuprofen from a vicodin/soma/pick another prescription drug. I believe that is why the policy exists. We went for an expulsion on a student who was stealing prescription pain killers from his mom's medicine chest (three corroborating witnesses who turned him in for selling) but we had to call a pharmacist to determine exactly what they were. He was expelled for a year and was not criminally prosecuted by the police, but that was an option.

For those of you who disagree with zero tolerance, I agree wholeheartedly. Teenagers make mistakes and some leeway should be given to the school to do what is right for each student. Counseling students about their mistakes and how they can avoid repeating them is more important (for most) than the punishment in my view. Most students who are suspended/expelled end up coming back to the same school when the punishment is over, so having a positive relationship with student and parents makes the return easier.

Giving schools leeway in dealing with discipline is fine, but how do schools ensure that students are all given a fair shake? Does the goth student get the same treatment as the starting running back for the same offense? Is the son/daughter of the Booster club president treated the same as everyone else? Does the school administrator have an agenda of their own? I tried to do treat all students the same (and ran into some resistance to be sure) but I can assure you that is not always the case. The zero tolerance policy is a warm blanket for many school districts for the reasons stated in earlier posts-it is an easy way to deal with problems. Having been in the seat, I don't agree with zero tolerance but certainly understand its attraction, especially with the number of students one sees during the day at a large school.

Disclosure: 17 years as a high school teacher, two years as Dean of Student discipline at a comprehensive high school with 2700+ students, and three years as an Assistant Principal. Will be back teaching next year and happily returning from the dark side!

Posted by: wittsend on July 12, 2008 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a public school vice principal and I CANNOT UNDERSTAND why the administrators thought it was okay to strip search a 13 year old girl. Did they take school law in their master's program?

I would never do that to a child nor would any of my administrator colleagues.

13 years old is such a fragile age and that poor child was surely traumatized...where is the thinking in this? Any time a child comes to the office of administration, the administrator is obligated to INVESTIGATE first, treat the child with dignity and once the investigation is complete, bring the parents in to work with you as a team to determine consequences. If any searching were to be done, it would be with parent advisement and done in private by a female school nurse or health aide.

They pay us "the big bucks" to think first and act later--these administrators did the opposite. It's a shame when folks like that put all schools in a bad light!
Zero tolerance for zero tolerance is my mantra.
My prayers for that little girl and her family--her due process has been violated.

Posted by: mary on July 12, 2008 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Teenage girls and their ibuprofen pacts.

Posted by: Ross Best on July 12, 2008 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Teresa cannot be a real human being. She's either a joke, a troll, or a bot.

Posted by: on July 12, 2008 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK


Clearly your childhood abuse of Aspergum has had serious, if unforeseen, consequences.
Through some mechanism not yet entirely understood by modern science, it has damaged Pat's brain.

Posted by: thersites on July 12, 2008 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

so here is my question: if a parent is unfortunate enough to live in this school district, shouldn't they be given the option to use their own tax money to send their child to a humane school. Can liberals at least agree to school choice where the parent otherwise has no choice but to send their child to a school that is going to violate their basic rights?

Posted by: zman on July 13, 2008 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

RE: Appeal to modern science @ 11:46 PM.

Do not believe modern science helpful in this case.
Suggest Malleus Maleficarum.

Posted by: clio on July 13, 2008 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

Just came here and it's too absurd to read down 86 comments.

It came out 6-5 in the court! How do these people get there?

Clearly, it should be 10-1 that anybody on any pretence can stripsearch a 13 year old of either sex, given your preference, at any time.

Why would we have this any other way?

'Scuse me while I go and throw up.

Posted by: notthere on July 13, 2008 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

Read down now.

Mary, absolutely right. I recognized what my daughter was going through in puberty and after -- maybe some of it subliminally from my sisters -- and this a most sensitive and fragile period.

These people were both moronic and...I'm looking for the word, as insensitive totally understates their behavior...and bullying (might cut it) and over-reaching in taking the course they did over a non-prescription drug.

Where are we going?

Posted by: notthere on July 13, 2008 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

The judge whose ruling was over-turned was appointed by.....GWB!

Posted by: Palolo lolo on July 13, 2008 at 4:21 AM | PERMALINK

Middle school.

I thought we had it bad when we girls were forced to kneel on the hall floor to prove (or disprove) to the Ass Principle that our miniskirts were the approved length. Boys just got hauled into the office and their hair chopped off by the bastard.

This incident is disgusting. On all levels.

Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on July 13, 2008 at 5:11 AM | PERMALINK


what did that comment have to do with anything that I said? Don't look here, look there?

My parrot's name is Loki by the way! Appropriate?

Posted by: Carol on July 13, 2008 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK


The War on Drugs, the drug prohibition laws, and all of their idiotic policy permutations from the federal right down to the local levels of school boards are a bipartisan monstrosity. If you don't believe me, just look up the votes on any drug prohibition legislation. One would hope that the school board memebers responsible for the case at hand were voted out of office, but I suspect they weren't.

Serial Cat Owner,

Children don't have the same civil liberties as adults. If they did, parents wouldn't be able to control them, or to delegate this control to government officials.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on July 13, 2008 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Will her family sue for 5 million or only two?

Seriously, we can expect to see the entire system choked in lawsuits resulting from all the constitutional infractions over the last eight years.

Posted by: Kenji on July 13, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

You know, if you had a 13-year-old daughter, your column would be less sarcastic and more outraged. Thank you for the info, but I'd like to see more outrage. This girl has been essentially sexually harassed by school officials and it's not a joke. It's not a joke that we have the kind of judiciary that came close to approving this. The intent of sexual harrassment may not have been there, but the psychological effect of sexual harrassment is no different. In fact, it's worse, as this girl no doubt has to continue to go to that school, to be ruled by these officials who feel at any time they can tear off her clothes. The school has become her abuser, who she cannot get away from, magnified by the effect of the knowledge of her entire peer group.

How would you like it if your boss heard a rumor of your drug use and brought in people to strip search you in front of your boss? And let's add in that you have no way to quit this employment, and will have to continue to work for this person and that there are other employees who will now call you names and treat you badly as a result.

And this is what we do to our children.

It's fine to be all highminded about a woman being thrown out of a mccain town meeting for holding a sign that says mccain = bush, but this is far more important, and not simply another cause for shrugging our shoulders cynically at the way America is run.

This is an outrage.

Posted by: catherineD on July 13, 2008 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Comment Transferred Reye's Syndrome is a common internet malady.

Posted by: Brojo on July 13, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK


Clearly your childhood abuse of Aspergum has had serious, if unforeseen, consequences.
Through some mechanism not yet entirely understood by modern science, it has damaged Pat's brain.

Posted by: thersites on July 12, 2008 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

If you think its funny that a 50 year old man who is so stupid that until approximately ONE YEAR AGO, he was still making the case repeatedly on this very blog that there is no difference between Al Gore and George Bush, and lecturing us on how we all should have voted for Ralph Nader like him, is molding young minds, we don't share the same sense of humor. Someone so obviously retarded shouldn't be allowed to substitute at a 7-11, let alone at a school. Even in Arizona.

Posted by: Pat on July 13, 2008 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

This is so anti-female. Girls of 13 are often having painful periods, and advil is practically the only thing that relieves the pain. I let my daughter take advil to school, and told to keep it hidden. This is criminal abuse of a 13 year old girl.

Posted by: Judy on July 13, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

As Brojo mentioned before, Safford is a backwater, undeveloped town that I'm sure doesn't attract the cream of the educational graduates each year...That being a given, I could find no where-& I researched several articles on the subject, that could tell me whether this Kerry the "vice"-principal, is a man or woman. Does anyone know?? Either way, I did read that he/she did have the common sense to instruct a female assistant and the schoolnurse-also female, to do the "examination".
No word on whether he/she was present during...!
Also,as some who has rheumatoid arthritis, I can also state that there is no "prescription-strength" ibuprofen...! You just take more than the recommended normal dose of 2 capsules/pills.
Anyone who tells you different is a moron or doesn't take enough medicine to know the difference...Re the Court's ruling on this, why was it only 6-5???,Did these 5 holdouts not have daughters or granddaughters!...I HAVE a 14-yr-old
and 2 11-yr-old granddaughters and I can tell you I would feel- just like that one guy said before-"punching him/her in the face as hard as I could" Of course, then I'd be up on an assault charge but everybody would know how Grandma felt!! As far as I'm concerned,Savana & her family are entitled to whatever recompense they can get from this horrible situation...

Posted by: Obamagirl on July 13, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

catherineD at 1:33:
You're right, it's not funny. But sometimes we have to laugh, or else start breaking things.

Pat at 4:19: we don't share the same sense of humor
I already knew that. But without Brojo, how would you keep your blood pressure up?

Posted by: thersites on July 13, 2008 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK


I generally agree with your post, but this sentence caught my eye:

"I know that it is only ibuprofen, but most teachers wouldn't know an ibuprofen from a vicodin/soma/pick another prescription drug. I believe that is why the policy exists."

If you mean that teachers and administrators cannot necessarily tell the difference simply by appearance, between ibuprofen and vicodin, you have a point. However, this can actually be easily addressed by having a PDR on hand, which has photos of all legal drugs, whether OTC or prescription. You look for a number on the pill, then look in the PDR for the picture. You need to either go out and buy a new PDR every year or have a subscription, which can be handled through your school's library. I know this because I'm a retired medical librarian who is deeply familiar with PDR.

However, I expect ANY educated adult to know the difference between ibuprofen and vicodin, or aspirin and oxycontin. I expect ALL educated adults to know that ibuprofen and aspirin are OTC and have ZERO potential for "abuse", whereas vicodin and oxycontin are prescription drugs which definitely have the potential for abuse. Since schools are rightfully concerned with drug abuse, all of their faculty should be aware of which drugs have that potential. They are negligent in their jobs if they don't.

I am with the others who believe the zero tolerance is ridiculous and that teachers and administrators must be allowed leeway to use some common sense. For instance, when it comes to disruptive behavior, a student with learning disabilities plus hyperactivity, should be handled differently than a kid who is of "normal" intelligence. Even then, with such a "normal" kid, questions should be raised about possible problems at home leading to acting out.

And stripsearching based upon rumor? Come ON! Thankfully the 9th District Court made the sensible decision. Thankfully my poor pitiful red state Arizona is in that district!

Posted by: on July 13, 2008 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

1. This had to go to an appeal? Who were the sagacious judges or jury who initially found against this 13 year old girl?

2. FIVE federal appellate judges think strip searching ANYONE ANYWHERE based on an "unverified tip" is OK?

3 FIVE federal appellate judges think strip searching a 13 year old school girl is an appropriate response in THIS case? Technicality? Technicality?


Let me explain an ovarian fact of life: For one week a month from the time I was 11 I would no sooner leave the house without Midol (or a close facsimile) than fly. And I think the world has been a safer, gentler place for it.

Well, my heart goes out to this young woman and her family. I hope she comes out of the trauma of this with well-channeled anger that fuels her to the top of her law school class and into a career addressing this type of insanity in our society. I hope hearing of her case inspires many other in the same direction.

Posted by: agapenagog on July 14, 2008 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK



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