Crying girls told to remove tops and submit to “waistband search” in presence of male officers
Louise Hoffman Broach
Thursday, April 23, 2009
RED CREEK – The superintendent of the Red Creek school district is investigating complaints by students, parents and the Civil Liberties Union of Central New York that a physical search of several students for drugs might have been too intrusive.
The state Education Department is also waiting for the school to complete an inquiry, said District Superintendent David Sholes.
“We’ve had drug overdoses in the last year and a half and arrests of some of the BOCES students relative to drugs,” Sholes said about what prompted the April 9 search. “Drugs were getting to BOCES and the obvious way they were getting there was on the BOCES bus. We were trying to address a major on-going problem. If we made some mistakes, we’re willing to correct them. We’re not going to cover it up.”
On April 9, the students who attend morning classes at the BOCES center got on their bus, expecting a typical ride to the Williamson campus. What happened next, according to some of them, was anything but typical.
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State troopers got on the bus and told the students to put their hands on the seats in front of them, although some students said they were told to put their hands on the bus ceiling. They were then escorted from the bus in groups of two and taken to the main office. Additionally, two students were pulled from their classes. State Police Trooper Ben Kauder, the school’s resource officer, said some of the BOCES students were suspected of having drugs; the students who were called out of class had previous dealings with the school resource officer regarding contraband.
All of the students were subjected to a search. Principal Noel Patterson, Dean of Students Matthew Van Orman and Library Aide Laurie Howland conducted it in the presence of two male state troopers. During the search, neither Sholes nor Kauder were present, they said.
All of the students were asked to turn their pockets inside out, take off their socks and shoes and their belts. Some of the female students said they were asked to remove their tops and at least one of the girls, distressed at what Kauder called a “waistband search” in the presence of males, was in tears in the office, both he and Sholes acknowledged.
While Patterson told a parent he did not ask anyone to remove clothing, Kauder and Sholes said someone could have asked the girls to remove what could have been perceived as outer garments, such as a sweatshirt or a “hoodie.” Kauder said that was how he instructed the search should be conducted.
The girls, called the search embarrassing, invasive and humiliating. Some of them, as well as some of the boys, were angry, too, that it was assumed they would be carrying drugs although they had never been in trouble for such an activity.
This article was posted: Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 8:48 am