Tuesday, May 6, 2008

ACLU charges search of Bucyrus students broke law

BUCYRUS — The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) argues a search of nine Bucyrus Middle School students on April 17 was illegal.

“What they did was dead wrong and in violation of Ohio law,” said Chris Link, Executive Director of the ACLU of Ohio.

The ACLU sent a letter to Bucyrus City Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols late Monday evening.

“We are in consultation with our legal counsel. I will issue a statement after I receive direction from them,” Nichols said.

The school is represented by the law firm of Pepple and Waggoner

While the school has maintained the search was not a strip search, the ACLU disagrees.

“According to reports from the media and others, the students were detained and subjected to body searches after some of the students were seen smoking on or near school grounds. Rather than lesser search techniques, such as sniffing the students’ breath, having them turn out their pockets or patting them down, the school personnel reportedly ordered the students to lift their shirts and pull their pants down revealing their underwear, at which point the school personnel ran their fingers inside the waistband of the students’ underwear,” reads part of the letter written by ACLU Legal Director Jeffrey M. Gamso.

The letter cites Ohio Revised Code Section 2933.32 that addresses strip searches.

“That portion of the Revised Code goes on to prohibit strip searches except in the narrowest of circumstances. It further says that performing an unauthorized strip search is a first-degree misdemeanor and the person illegally searched may sue for damages,” Gamso says in the letter.

The searches were conducted on the students by Bucyrus Middle School Principal Todd Roll and Assistant Principal Mark Burke.

The ACLU does not think the searches were reasonable in proportion to the circumstances.

“Smoking cigarettes may be prohibited by school policy, but it does not justify the most extreme search — stripping a child — that should never be used except for perhaps, life-threatening emergencies,” Gamso writes in his letter.

A parent of one of the students searched, Julie Harper, thinks Roll and Burke were wrong.

“They are two grown men and knew better than to do something like this. Yes, what my child did was wrong, but Mr. Burke and Mr. Roll should know their boundaries,” Harper said.

The ACLU also sent a copy of its letter to the Ohio Department of Education.

“There was a similar situation in southern Ohio where students were strip searched. The Ohio Department of Education launched their own investigation, which they may do in this case,” Link said.

In that case, the ACLU represented the parents of the students who were stripped and the lawsuit was settled out of court.

"In this case, we will proceed based on what the families involved want to do,” Link said.

Link and her staff requests parents of the children involved in the search contact them at


Original Article-

The News Journal - www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com - Mansfield, OH

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