Debra J. Saunders

I should note that the other student was found with 400 mg prescription ibuprofen pills, not a 200 mg over-the-counter Advil. But that is a distinction without a difference. I have to agree with U.S. Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, who, in a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Redding's favor, wrote, "We reject Safford's effort to lump together these run-of-the-mill anti-inflammatory pills with the evocative term 'prescription drugs' in a knowing effort to shield an imprudent strip search of a young girl behind a larger war on drugs."

Wardlaw also was appalled that Safford conducted a less intrusive search of the girl who falsely accused Redding, while never asking a boy suspected of the same infraction to strip. If the school was compelled to strip-search Redding to prevent a lawsuit or harmful episode, why not the others?

Slate Magazine's Dahlia Lithwick noted that when Justice John Paul Stevens asked what discipline the district meted out to the girl who falsely fingered Redding, Wright answered, "Oh, there was no discipline that I know of."

Interesting. Common sense could have prevented this irritating case. School districts ought to have better things to do -- like educating -- than banning student use of over-the-counter drugs. If parents don't want their children taking medication for headaches or cramps, let parents say no. It's not the schools' job.

Common sense also should tell school officials not to strip-search students for any reason without a parent's permission. Asked what she thinks the school should have done, Redding's answer was simple: "Call my mom first."

The Supreme Court does not have a strong track record when it comes to recognizing student or parental rights. In 1995, the Big Bench ruled that an Oregon school could require school athletes to submit to random drug testing, in part because of the "increased risk of sports-related injury." In 2002, the court supported an Oklahoma school district's mandatory drug policy for students participating in any extracurricular activities, sporting or not -- even if parents objected to the test.

Perhaps, however, this episode is too extreme even for this court. Or, as Souter also noted, "at some point, it gets silly."


Debra J. Saunders


 
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