What is the Thirteenth Amendment?

S.O. v. Hinds Cty. Sch. Dist., No. 3:17-CV-383-DPJ-KFB, 2018 WL 3300227 (S.D. Miss. July 3, 2018), gets this week’s award for Most Creative Lawyering.  This case also involves a student search, but this one of pockets and not cell phones.  This all came about after a teacher accused the student, B.O., of selling bite-sized candy bars during class in violation of school policy.  According to a supporting affidavit, in searching the student’s front pockets, the assistant principal’s hands went astray and touched the student’s “privacy.”

The AP denied the allegations and said B.O. was only told to pull out his pockets, which were found to be empty.  The student’s school bag was also searched, in which officials found a purse, expo-board cleaner, feminine looking OtterBox cases, and six calculators, three of which were school property. B.O. was written up for theft of school property. B.O. alleges that all of this occurred in the presence of a city police sergeant.

Parent sued on behalf of B.O., asserting claims under § 1983 for violating the Fourth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments as well as various state-law causes of action.

The Court believed reasonable suspicion existed to search B.O.  However, if things happened the way B.O. said they did, then the excessively intrusive nature of the search was objectively unreasonable, according to the court.  The court stated that the “the content of the suspicion failed to match the degree of intrusion” since the search of B.O.’s pockets was based only on a suspicion that he was selling candy.

What about the Thirteenth Amendment?

The suit alleged that another assistant principal violated B.O.'s Thirteenth Amendment right to be free from involuntary servitude by ordering B.O. to retrieve some of the candy he had hidden in a trashcan.  Under the Thirteenth Amendment, “[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude, ... shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”  According to the court, B.O. was not subjected to “compulsory labor akin to African slavery,” and the plaintiffs otherwise failed to show that the AP’s actions were objectively unreasonable.  While creative, the claim was frivolous.

B.O. also sued the police sergeant for his failure to read B.O. his Miranda rights before he questioned him.  However, the court observed that a violation of the Miranda procedures does not amount to a constitutional violation.  In addition, numerous courts have held that students facing disciplinary action in public schools are not entitled to Miranda warnings, even when the questioning occurs in the presence of law enforcement.

The suit was dismissed, except for the individual claims against the two APs who conducted the search.


Tomorrow:   Adventures with cheerleaders and social media!  YAY!