A lawsuit against a North Carolina school official who stripped a 10-year-old boy down to his underwear and searched his body for a $20 bill can proceed to trial, a U.S. magistrate ruled.
Last year, the parents of 10-year-old Justin Cox — a student at Union Elementary School in Sampson County, North Carolina — filed suit against Assistant Principal Teresa Holmes and the county school board. The lawsuit alleges that Cox was brought to Holmes’s office under suspicion of pocketing a $20 bill that a female student had dropped.
With a male custodian as a witness, Holmes forced the boy to strip down to his underwear. She then “ran her hand around ‘the rim’ of his underpants looking for the money,” Watchdog Wire reports.
Attorneys with the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization, are representing the family. They say the search violated Cox’s Fourth Amendment rights.
These types of searches clearly illustrate the danger inherent in giving school administrators carte blanche authority to violate the civil liberties and privacy rights of students,” said Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead in a statement. “Do we really want young people to be taught that they have no true rights and that government authorities have total power and can violate their rights as they see fit?”
The school district sought to have the lawsuit thrown out, but Magistrate Judge William Webb ruled recently that the case should proceed to a jury trial.
School officials failing to take kids’ constitutional rights seriously is a common occurrence. Last spring, a Maryland kindergartner was held and interrogated for hours–eventually wetting himself out of fear–because he brought a toy gun to school. (RELATED: Kindergartener interrogated over cap gun until he pees his pants, then suspended 10 days)