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Lawsuit Claims 4 Middle School Girls Were Subjected to Discriminatory, Dehumanizing Strip Searches

— May 1, 2019

Binghamton City School District in New York is in hot water over allegations that school officials subjected four middle school girls to unlawful strip searches.

According to a lawsuit recently filed against the Binghamton City School District, four middle school girls were subjected to “discriminatory, dehumanizing, and unlawful strip searches” at East Middle School in Binghamton, New York. All four girls are only 12-years-old and were allegedly walking down a hallway after lunch, conversing and laughing as friends do, when they were approached by their principal. From there, they were led to the “health office, and without any explanation,” subjected to the alleged strip searches.

The suit was filed earlier this week on Monday by the families of the girls and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. It should be noted that all four girls were either African American or Latino, which is why the lawsuit is laying out “claims of racial bias and a violation of the girls’ civil rights during the incident,” which occurred on January 15, 2019.

The Broome County Courthouse in Binghamton, New York
The Broome County Courthouse in Binghamton, New York; image courtesy of Jim Danvers via Wikimedia Commons,

The allegations in the suit are so alarming that they drew the attention of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has since announced “a state Department of Education investigation.” When commenting on the incident, Cuomo said, “asking a child to remove her clothing — and then commenting on her body — is shaming, humiliating, traumatic sexual harassment.”

What exactly happened, though? What prompted the principal to usher the girls to the health office to begin with? Well, according to the suit, the principal, Tim Simonds, said the girls were sent to the health office because “he thought they had been acting hyper and giddy.” Once at the health office, “a nurse tested the girls’ vitals, searched their physical belongings along with other school officials, and subjected each of them to humiliating and inappropriate comments about their bodies.”

Additionally, the suit claims the nurse conducted “a sobriety test on one of the girls, and instructed her to remove her clothing, which she refused.” In the end, the school officials didn’t find any contraband or evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever.

To make matters worse, the suit alleges the girls’ parents were never contacted prior to the searches, and states, “the laughter and giddiness of adolescent children are not objective facts giving rise to a reasonable suspicion justifying an intrusive search by school officials.”

So how has the school responded to the allegations? For starters, the school district argues the alleged strip searches never occurred. Rather, school officials claim that “misinformation was spread on social media concerning the incident and that medical evaluations that are conducted may require a person to remove bulky outside clothing to expose an arm so that vitals like blood pressure and pulse can be accessed.”

Despite the statement from the district, Cuomo’s department is teaming up with the Center for School Safety, New York State Police, and other “local officials to determine next steps and to ensure no similar situations occur in the future.”


Four girls at N.Y. middle school subjected to ‘dehumanizing’ strip search, lawsuit says

4 black, Latina girls strip-searched at middle school, lawsuit says

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