The 13-year-old girls were ordered by their vice-principal to take off their clothes to be searched for marijuana. There was also a man present, whom the girls believe was a school security guard.
(ANTIMEDIA) Highland, CA — A mother in San Bernardino, CA is outraged at what she believes amounts to the molestation of her 13-year-old daughter by Serrano Middle School officials. The girl and another female student were called to the vice principal’s office in early April under suspicion of possessing marijuana.
According to the 13-year-old student, both girls were ordered by vice-principal, Shenita Stevenson, to take off their clothes to be searched for marijuana. There was also a man present, whom the girls believe was a school security guard. According to an account written by the 13-year-old’s mother, Anita Wilson-Pringle, her daughter was,
…told to take off her jacket, shirt and t-shirt. Next she was told to pull her bra out and shake her breast, same thing with her pants. [she] refused and was then threatened with arrest if she did not comply. Afraid and under duress she complied…I cannot recall in any handbook or school policy where it says it’s ok to strip search a child.
The other girl, a Hispanic 15-year-old, allegedly underwent similar treatment.
According to Wilson-Pringle and the school, the girls were suspected of possessing marijuana in one of their backpacks, which were left unattended in a classroom with 30 other students. The 13-year-old’s mother claims that Stevenson’s version of the marijuana discovery has continually changed.
As it turned out, her daughter was found to be in possession of a quarter of a gram of marijuana according to the school (this is almost a negligible amount). Allegedly it was found, not as the result of the violative strip search, but in her backpack. Wilson-Pringle’s daughter denies that it was hers or that she has any knowledge of it.
When her parents arrived to pick her up at the school, they spoke with Stevenson and a San Bernardino County school police officer, Officer A. Hazen. In response to her’s father’s inquiry as to why officials would strip-search a thirteen-year-old girl, Hazen reportedly told him, “I’m a police officer and I can search any damn body I please.”
This statement is puzzling, considering he was merely defending a security guard who was present. Still, the officer maintained his authority to conduct these violations of privacy.
According to Wilson-Pringle, Hazen also attempted to have her daughter sign several forms, including one declaring that she was guilty of possession. When she refused to sign (backed up by her parents), she was ticketed and given a court date. Her family is not convinced of her guilt.
As her mother pointed out to Anti-Media:
If they were so cut and dry guilty, why is this matter being investigated by five different departments?
She says she has spoken with the San Bernardino School District Police, Serrano Middle School, the San Bernardino Unified School District Human Resources Dept, the San Bernardino Unified School District Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Volkymer, and the San Bernardino Unified School District Youth Advocacy Services.
Meanwhile, the school denies that a strip search was conducted. In a statement to a My Fox LA, a local, the school claimed their
…investigation has confirmed that beyond a traditional pat down, there was no further physical contact between the students and Serrano staff. The students and their undergarments remained covered at all times.
Wilson-Pringle said that according to the two girls, the searches are done on a regular basis, mainly to non-white students. She said immigrant families are targeted though it is not possible to independently verify these claims. According to Fox, however, other parents confirmed the strip search practices off-camera.
Wilson-Pringle told Anti-Media that while policing powers in schools are a “necessary evil,” the actions of officials were far beyond inappropriate:
They have not only become the bullies of our children by throwing out threats of jail or worse if they don’t cooperate, but they have also taken on the role of assaulting or kids, unless we keep close watch.
This horrific incident is yet another example of the wasteful, oppressive, and unacceptable consequences of the War on Drugs. When violating personal privacy becomes morally excusable in the futile name of eliminating marijuana, it is clear the misguided “war” has gone on too long. It has created more violence, authoritarianism, and intimidation than any amount of marijuana ever could. Whether Wilson-Pringle’s daughter or the other student were in possession of the plant or not is irrelevant. Even the Supreme Court has ruled that strip-searching students is unacceptable.
According to her mother (her daughter has understandably chosen not to speak to the media), the 13-year-old has been traumatized by the experience and feels violated by officials tasked with protecting her. Wilson-Pringle and her daughter plan to fight the charges as the investigation continues. The student no longer attends Serrano Middle School and has begun independent study.
As Wilson-Pringle told Anti-Media:
In essence, things like this are going on everyday. There are [many] more students that have been illegally searched like this — not just at Serrano but all over. What they didn’t count on this time was a parent that actually gave a damn about what happened with their kids.