Lawsuit: 22 Girls Were Strip-Searched in Choir Class

A Fifth Circuit court of appeals sends the case to court
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2018 3:00 PM CDT
Lawsuit: 22 Girls Were Strip-Searched in Choir Class for $50
A judge's gavel in this seen in this file photo.   (Getty Images)

The mothers of two girls who were allegedly strip-searched in a Houston middle school will get their day in court after all, KTRK reports. The two moms say their girls' civil rights were violated when nurses at Lanier Middle School looked under the clothing of 22 female students for $50 that had gone missing during choir class. "The search included checking around the waistband of the girls' panties, under their shirts, and loosening their bras," the moms' 2014 lawsuit says. "According to the victims, they were made to lift their shirts so they were exposed from the shoulder to the waist." The $50 was never found. A district court threw out the suit, saying it "failed to make a claim," but a Fifth Circuit court of appeals has reversed the decision and sent the case back to the lower courts.

At issue is the Houston Independent School District's policy of allowing invasive searches of students, reports. School officials are apparently allowed to search a student for "contraband" items like alcohol, weapons, or drugs, and the assistant principal who approved this search was chastened by the principal for requesting a non-contraband search. The Fifth Circuit concluded that the district had failed to train employees on how to legally search its students. "My argument was, 'It’s nice that you have a policy in a notebook on a shelf, but you actually have to train people on it and make them aware of it,'" says Houston attorney Peter Kelly, who argued the Fifth Circuit case. "I quoted James Brown in my oral argument: 'Saying it and doing it are two different things.'" (More lawsuit stories.)

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