The Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment

Third and Fourth Amendments

Do school officials have unfettered authority to conduct strip searches?

No, strip searches are more invasive and there is a presumption that many strip searches would not pass the reasonableness inquiry under New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985). In Safford Unified School District v. Redding (2009; see LegalSpeak, p. 59), the Court ruled that a strip search of a student for alleging possessing prescription drug pills was not reasonable under the specific facts of the case. The Court emphasized the intrusive nature of strip searches and the fact that there was little evidence that the student Savana Redding was carrying such pills.

However, the Court granted qualified immunity to the assistant school principal in part because the case law was so divided on the constitutionality of strip searches. Qualified immunity is a doctrine that shields government officials from liability unless they violate clearly established constitutional or statutory law.


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