Hundreds of Students Reportedly Violated in Outrageous and Disturbing Search at School
About 900 students at a Georgia high school were groped during a disturbing drug search conducted by police on April 14. Now, the Southern Center for Human Rights, a civil-liberties group, is suing the local sheriff’s office on behalf of the students, alleging the students’ Fourth and 14th Amendments were violated.
According to the lawsuit, 40 officers arrived at Worth County High School on April 14 to conduct a random drug search. The officers did not have a warrant, according to a report by CNN. The school was locked down for four hours as students were searched in hallways one by one.
The lawsuit describes in detail the searches conducted on several of students, including multiple students who claimed to have been inappropriately touched by officers. One student, identified as “K.A.” in the suit, claims to have had her breasts fondled and vagina “cupped.”
“[Deputy Brandi] Whiddon also looked down the back and front of K.A.’s dress,” the complaint states. “Whiddon slid her hands from one of K.A.’s ankles up to her pelvic area. Whiddon’s hands went underneath K.A.’s dress as Whiddon felt up K.A.’s leg. Whiddon’s hands stopped on and cupped K.A.’s vaginal area and buttocks. Whiddon then slid her hands down to the other ankle. Whiddon was wearing gloves, but did not change them before or after her search of K.A.”
Male student “B.S.” claims to have been inappropriately touched as well.
“B.S., age 15, was in his literature composition class when Defendants began their mass search,” the complaint says. “When B.S.’s class was called into the hallway, B.S. saw Sheriff [Jeff] Hobby standing amongst his deputies. … [Officer] Brannen started at B.S.’s torso and worked his way down. He patted B.S.’s shoulders and chest and abdomen with his open palms. Brannen spent three to five seconds repeatedly grabbing with the tips of his fingers at the front of B.S.’s pants, moving his fingers back and forth from B.S.’s front pockets to his groin. He continued doing so until B.S. informed him that one of his pockets contained a set of earbuds and that the other one was empty. During this time, Brannen’s fingertips touched B.S.’s penis and testicles, over clothes, four to five times. Next, Brannen pinched B.S.’s buttocks repeatedly through B.S.’s back pockets.”
According to a report by WALB-TV, the search was prompted by a prior investigation of burglaries that revealed evidence there could be drug activity at the school. Despite the large-scale investigation, no drugs were found during the search, only “drug paraphernalia.” One student was arrested for having alcohol.
In a statement by the Worth County Sheriff’s Office, Hobby wrote that the superindentent and principal of the school were aware there would be a search and the principal had “agreed on the date of the pat down.” Hobby also said, “Sheriff’s Deputies were instructed to perform a basic and nonintrusive pat down of each student. … After the pat down was conducted it was discovered that one of the deputies had exceeded the instructions given by the Sheriff and conducted a pat down of some students that was more instrusive [sic] than instructed … Upon the discovery of the deputy’s actions, the Sheriff has taken corrective action to insure that this behavior will not occur again.”
Justin Haskins is executive editor and a research fellow for The Heartland Institute.