The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has reversed an earlier dismissal of a case involving 22 sixth-grade girls who were allegedly strip-searched down to their bras and underwear after $50 went missing on a school field trip.
According to the suit, the assistant principal at the Lanier Middle School in Houston, Texas, forced a group of 22 girls in a sixth-grade choir class to be strip-searched when $50 went missing.
When an initial search did not uncover the missing money, a school police officer suggested “that girls like to hide things in their bras and panties.” The assistant principal then directed the school nurse to “check around the waistband of [their] panties,” and “loosen their bras.”
Still, no money was found.
Though a federal judge initially dismissed the suit, the Fifth Circuit reversed the finding. Read the statement below:
During a sixth-grade choir class, an assistant principal allegedly ordered a mass, suspicionless strip search of the underwear of twenty-two preteen girls. All agree the search violated the girls’ constitutional rights under Texas and federal law. Even so, the district court dismissed the girls’ lawsuit against the school district for failure to state a claim. We reverse.
For purposes of this appeal, we take as true the amended complaint’s factual allegations. Those allegations describe how $50 went missing during a sixth-grade choir class at Houston’s public Lanier Middle School. Assistant Principal Verlinda Higgins was brought in to investigate. When no money turned up, the school police officer “suggested that girls like to hide things in their bras and panties.” Higgins took all twenty-two girls in the choir class to the female school nurse, who strip searched them, taking them one at a time into a bathroom, where she “check[ed] around the waistband of [their] panties,” loosened their bras, and checked “under their shirts.” The girls “were made to lift their shirts so they were exposed from the shoulder to the waist.” No parents were notified, despite the girls’ requests. No money was found.
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