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Safford Unified School District #1 v. Redding

United States Supreme Court
129 S.Ct 2633 (2009)


Facts

In October 2003, the assistant principal of the middle school that Redding (plaintiff) was attending confronted Redding with certain items supposedly belonging to her. Some of the items were painkillers, which were generally banned under school rules without advance permission. Redding denied any knowledge of the pills. The principal told Redding that he had heard she was distributing the drugs to classmates. She denied this and allowed a search of her belongings, which revealed no proscribed items. The principal then asked a female administrative helper to take Redding to the school nurse’s office to search her clothes. The helper and the nurse asked Redding to remove her jacket, socks, and shoes. Finding nothing, they then asked her to remove her stretch pants and T-shirt. Still finding nothing, they told her to remove her bra and to shake it, as well as to pull out the elastic on her underwear. When Redding did so, she exposed her breasts and pelvic area. No contraband items were found. Redding’s mother filed suit against the school and the officials, claiming that they conducted an illegal strip search under the Fourth Amendment. The officials moved for summary judgment, raising the defense of qualified immunity. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that the search violated Redding’s rights and denied the officials’ defense of qualified immunity. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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Dissent (Thomas, J.)

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