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SCOTUS rules strip search is unconstitutional, but school officials immune from accountability.

By Ian Millhiser  

"SCOTUS rules strip search is unconstitutional, but school officials immune from accountability."

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advil In an 8-1 decision today, the Supreme Court held that school officials violated the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures when they strip searched a 13 year-old honor student because they falsely suspected her of bringing ibuprofen to school.  Ibuprofen is the same drug used in the painkiller Advil. The Court reasoned that, because there was no evidence that a commonly used painkiller presented a danger to the student body and there was no evidence that the honor student was concealing drugs in her underwear, the school overreacted by strip searching the student. Although this decision puts school officials on notice that they cannot behave in such a manner in the future, the Court also held that the school officials in this case could not be held accountable for their actions because of a doctrine known as “qualified immunity” (which says that government officials are immune from liability when they violate the Constitution in novel ways that previously haven’t been addressed by the courts). Of the Court’s nine justices, only Clarence Thomas believed that the strip search in this case did not violate the Constitution.

‹ The WonkLine: June 25, 2009

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