A New York school district has denied that it recently subjected four 12-year-old girls to strip searches in a middle school nurse's office, The Associated Press reported.
"There has been a lot of misinformation being spread through social media from third parties," the Binghamton School District wrote in a statement released Thursday. "No students were strip-searched, nor were they punished as a result of the incident in question, and they were allowed to return to class after being evaluated."
In its statement, the district did not clarify what happened to the girls. But it did write that district officials have the right to conduct medical and physical evaluations if a student's behavior appears to be out of character.
None of the administrators reportedly involved have suspended or placed on leave.
What's the backstory?
The district came under fire after the girls were allegedly questioned and strip-searched on Jan. 15 by the school nurse and assistant principal at Binghamton's East Middle School.
Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow, a local organization, claimed that the girls were subjected to the search under the suspicion of possessing drugs after "appearing hyper and giddy during their lunch hour."
"The children were instructed to remove their clothing, and felt ashamed, humiliated and traumatized by the experience," the group wrote in a statement, according to Press Connects.
What did community members say?
About 200 community members packed Tuesday's school board meeting where they questioned the accountability of those who work for the district.
"If we don't have teachers who want to be held accountable, they should leave," parent Kymel Yard said, according to Press Connects.
Broome-Tioga NAACP President Mica Barreiro introduced a list of demands from some of the community members, according to the newspaper.
Stop the practice of strip-searching children for any reason, and especially in response to giddiness or behavioral concerns.
Removal of the assistant principal and principal at East Middle School for poor judgment, which allegedly resulted in child trauma.
Remove the nurse who administered the strip searches.
Publicly apologize to the students, their families and the community at large for violating the trust of all parties harmed by their actions.
Provide alternate instruction for the girls, at either West Middle School or home instruction, until the situation has been rectified to the satisfaction of the families.
"This is outrageous that these girls got strip-searched and nobody got suspended," Barreiro said, according to the AP. "School rules say parents have to be informed before anything like this happens."
A middle school student who said her best friend was involved also addressed the board.
"How am I supposed to tell her everything is going to be OK if nothing is being taken care of?" Alicia Richard asked.
What was the district's response after the school board meeting?
On Wednesday, the district issued a statement that appears to contradict its most recent statement.
It apologized for the "unintended consequences" caused to the students involved, adding that the law allows administrators to search students whose "health is in danger."
"Unfortunately, our students shared that these actions have had the unintended consequences of making the students feel traumatized. We sincerely apologize for the impact this has had and are working with these families to support their children's success," the district wrote.
"A student may, under current law and policy, be searched in a school building by an administrator when the administrator reasonably suspects that a student's health is in danger or is in possession of a substance that may harm themselves or others," the statement continued. "School administrators will be gathering to review existing procedures. The resulting regulations, which will ensure safety and personal integrity of all of our students, will be communicated to our families. Additionally, the district's current Board Policy will move forward for review."
Progressive Leaders has planned a rally for Tuesday at the middle school to inform parents and students of their "right to refuse invasive and discriminatory searches being conducted by school faculty and staff."