#380 Drug War Madness

Date: Mon, 11 Aug 2008
Subject: #380 Drug War Madness


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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #380 – Monday, 11 August 2008

Today the Los Angeles Times printed a superb OPED by Vera Leone, an
Internet communications associate with the Drug Policy Alliance

The OPED references a Los Angeles Times July 12th article
‘Strip-Searched Girl Wins Appeal’ http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v08/n000/a067.html
and a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling which is at

The country’s fourth largest circulation newspaper is always a worthy
letter to the editor target. The Los Angeles Times advises that
published letters typically run 150 words or less and may be edited.

You may use the newspaper’s webform at http://drugsense.org/url/bc7El3Yo
to send letters or email them to letters@latimes.com


Pubdate: Mon, 11 Aug 2008
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Times
Author: Vera Leone


Federal Courts Took Far Too Long to Rule That It’s Wrong to
Strip-Search a 13-Year-Old Girl Suspected of Carrying Ibuprofen.

She was a 13-year-old honor student. She may or may not have given her
friend prescription-strength ibuprofen, though the girl certainly
didn’t have any on her. An assistant principal, acting on the word of
a scared fellow student, brought the eighth-grade girl into his office
and subjected her to a strip search. In the presence of the school
nurse and the assistant principal’s administrative assistant, this
young woman was forced to strip off her clothes including her
underwear, exposing first her breasts and then her pubic area, on the
erroneous suspicion that she was hiding . . . ibuprofen. At this
Arizona middle school, students are prohibited from carrying drugs —
even over-the-counter medication — into school.

Last month, The Times reported that a panel of judges on the U.S. 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals overturned (in a 6-5 decision) previous
rulings that condoned the actions of the assistant principal, who is
now finally considered liable for damages.

The student was searched by women, the nurse and the administrative
assistant. It’s still abuse. I’ve been through these searches.
Regardless of your gender or that of the people searching you, it’s a
violation of your rights.

I spent six months in federal prison for civil disobedience a few
years ago. What vividly remains far and away the worst part of the
experience was being strip-searched. After receiving a visit, I ran
the random (sometimes not so random) risk of having to strip off all
my clothes, including undergarments — just in the way this
middle-school girl was forced to strip — and bend over and cough. As
a survivor of sexual abuse, these strip searches were particularly
traumatic. Given the percentage of incarcerated women who are also
survivors of abuse, these strip searches were traumatic for most
women. Some guards used their power punitively. Such searches can
re-traumatize survivors, and even for women and girls on the outside,
sexual abuse and assault are far too common.

Until this recent successful appeal, school officials, supported by
not one but two previous sets of judges, had (almost) gotten away with
an unfathomable violation. In their zeal to completely eliminate
student access to all drugs, in what will forever remain a failed
endeavor (we can’t keep drugs out of prisons, so how can we keep them
out of schools?) that neither teaches our children about fact-based
decision-making nor builds trusting relationships with them, those
fighting the drug war have unapologetically crossed a very serious
line. There is no moral defense for their reprehensible actions. They
were not protecting the safety of students. What are we doing to our
students by treating them in such a manner? Why are we doing things to
13-year-old girls that appear to be preparing them for prison?

While the Arizona assistant principal might be exposed to a civil
liability, it’s not nearly enough. Everyone who stood by should be
fired for the unconscionable abuse of this student. Everyone who
participated in this horrific violation — including the nurse and the
secretary — deserves nothing short of being expelled from our public
schools immediately. They should be nowhere near our children, ever —
let alone responsible for their protection.

Thanks to the drug war, middle-school administrators are behaving like
prison guards — and that scares the hell out of me. It horrifies me
that an assistant principal, his administrative assistant, a nurse,
five of the 11 judges in this case and two previous sets of judges all
thought this act was acceptable.

Is no one — not even 13-year-old young women and their bodies — safe
from drug war zealots?


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