September 17, 2008

BUCYRUS, OH- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is filing a lawsuit today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against the Bucyrus City School District and members of its staff. The suit challenges the school district’s repeated use of strip searches on students, in violation of federal and state laws. The plaintiffs in the case are three students who were strip searched because staff suspected they were in possession of tobacco products. Two of the students have reported being strip searched on other occasions.

ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeffrey Gamso said, “Bucyrus City Schools have demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the law and the well-being of its students by repeatedly conducting strip searches without substantial evidence of wrongdoing.”

“School should be a place where students feel safe, yet staff members in Bucyrus intimidate and humiliate students through strip searches. Forcing young people to remove clothing for a search should never be acceptable, yet it seems that in Bucyrus schools it is almost routine,” added Gamso.

The plaintiffs were strip searched occurred on April 17, 2008, prior to the start of the school day. A group of students, including some of the plaintiffs, were congregating in an alley across the street from the school. Some of the students in the alley were smoking cigarettes. The school principal came upon the students and they ran onto the school grounds and mixed in with others. The principal pulled a group of students inside, including some who had been in the alley and some who had not.

Staff members brought each of the male plaintiffs into an office, made them turn out their pockets, patted them down and forced them to drop their pants so they could check for tobacco products. A staff member also took his finger and inserted it between the waistbands of the boys’ underwear and their body and ran the finger around their waist. Staff also took a female student into an office and forced her to lift her shirt up and patted her down. She also reported being strip searched at an after school event several months later.

"The Constitution and Ohio law are clear that the school simply cannot perform these strip searches. That the school has repeatedly performed these illegal searches demonstrates that the district must adopt a clear policy outlining acceptable search techniques and hold those responsible who have broken the law," Gamso concluded.

Update: 04.14.09
ACLU Victorious in Student Strip Search Case
School to Implement Policy Change That Adheres to Law
Read the press release