What does the term “strip search” mean to you?

When I hear the term “strip search” I think of what I see them do on Orange is the New Black or  Cool Hand Luke. Terms like “naked as a jaybird” come to mind, and then my mind spins off into why we think the jaybird is more naked than, say, a grackle.  Anyway, you get the picture. When I hear this term, I’m thinking someone has been required to completely disrobe.

It’s now pretty clear that “strip search” does not necessarily mean completely naked.  This point was made clear by the 5th Circuit in the case decided this summer in which 22 (22!!) 6th grade girls were subjected to what the court called a “mass, suspicionless strip search.”

I think it would be wise for administrators to drop the term “strip search” and substitute instead, “underwear search.”  I suggest this because your campus administrators need to understand that they are walking on thin legal ice when they explore a student’s underthings.

We wrote up the 5th Circuit’s decision in the Daily Dawg on July 9th, so I’m not going to rehash the entire decision here. I just want to make this one point: if you require a student to loosen her bra, or if you explore the waistband of a student’s underpants, you are conducting an “underwear search.” As a general rule, you should not be doing that.  The court did allow for such searches in rare circumstances, such as 1) when what you are looking for is dangerous; or 2) when you have good reason to believe that the underwear of a particular student is exactly where the “contraband” will be found.

The case is Littell v. Houston ISD, decided by the 5th Circuit on June 27, 2018. We found it at 894 F.3d 616.


Tomorrow: why would a coach use district letterhead to support a child pornographer?