A newly filed federal lawsuit claims that police officers groped 900 students at Worth County High School in Georgia during a warrantless drug sweep that yielded no results.
The human rights group, Southern Center for Human Rights, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the students against the Worth County sheriff over an April 14 incident when 40 officers came into the school with no advance notice, KTLA-TV reported.
According to the lawsuit, the officers put the school on lockdown for four hours, during which they ordered students out of the classrooms and into the hallways. Students were allegedly then forced to stand spread eagle against the lockers while officers conducted intimate searches of male and female students, including touching the breast and genital areas, KTLA reported.
The lawsuit mentions one girl in particular, using only her initials K.A., who was searched by Deputy Brandi Whiddon. The lawsuit goes into disturbing detail about how in-depth Whiddon's search of K.A. was. KTLA's report stated:
“Sheriff Hobby entered K.A.’s classroom and ordered the students to line up in the hallway with their hands on the wall,” the suit said. “Deputy Whiddon took one of K.A.’s arms, placed it higher up on the wall, and kicked her legs to open them wider. Whiddon pulled the front of K.A.’s bra away from her body by the underwire and flipped it up.
“Whiddon also looked down the back and front of K.A.’s dress. Whiddon slid her hands from one of K.A.’s ankles up to her pelvic area. Whiddon’s hands went underneath K.A.’s dress as Whiddon felt up K.A.’s leg. Whiddon’s hands stopped on and cupped K.A.’s vaginal area and buttocks. Whiddon then slid her hands down to the other ankle. Whiddon was wearing gloves, but did not change them before or after her search of K.A.”
Worth County School Board attorney Tommy Coleman told CNN affiliate WALB-TV that authorities had a list of 13 suspects within the school, but only three of those students were in attendance that day, KTLA reported.
“The egregious thing that happened was he didn’t search just those individuals but he searched every single student at the school,” Coleman told CNN. “There was aggressive searches and touching of undergarments and breast and genitalia by deputies.”
In a telephone interview with WALB, Worthy County Sheriff Jeff Hobby said that the warrantless searches were legal because school administrators were present when it occurred.
It was not clarified whether or not school administrators present had agreed to the searches, however, interim Worth County Superintendent Lawrence Walters denied that the deputies had the approval to conduct the search from school administrators, nor does he condone the actions of the deputies.
"Under no circumstances did we approve touching any students," Walters told WALB.
According to Walters, Hobby had told him in March that a search of the school was going to be conducted after spring break.
"We did not give permission but they didn't ask for permission, he just said, the sheriff, that he was going to do it after spring break," Walters said.