Are we really ready to do this to kids? And the important part here is that the student in question was on the honor roll and they were searching her for prescription-strength ibuprofen pills.
An important case at the Supreme Court sometimes informs as much about the justices as the issue at hand, and yesterday’s animated hearing on whether school officials have the right to strip-search a 13-year-old female student seemed just such a case.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer wondered if the incident was much different from the experience of disrobing for gym class. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy affirmed his deep concerns about illicit drugs. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seemed at times on the edge of exasperation with her all-male colleagues. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. searched for a way to make the issue go away.
But it was Justice David H. Souter who seemed to sum up the dilemma for a majority of the court. He put himself in the place of a school official balancing the need for keeping his young charges safe from drugs while respecting the constitutional protections even middle school students should receive.
“My thought process is, I would rather have the kid embarrassed by a strip search, if we can’t find anything short of that, than to have some other kids dead because the stuff is distributed at lunchtime and things go awry,” Souter said.
Sure, but how big of a problem is this really? Lots of kids ODing on ibuprofen? I mean, come on…
And how far do we want to go down the “If one child gets hurt…” road? Life is full of danger, and there are laws in place to make sure we have reasonable assumptions of safety. But there’s no such thing as complete safety, and it feels like that’s what we’re aiming at with this.
Color me concerned because this slippery slope seems ripe for abuse.