A state investigation has been launched into allegations that four African-American girls were strip-searched inside their New York middle school last week.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also called on the State Department of Education to open its own investigation into the claims, as well as assist in the state’s probe.
Outraged locals pressed for answers amid news that four 12-year-old girls at East Middle School in Binghampton were questioned and ordered to disrobe by an assistant principal and a school nurse on Jan. 15 after they were suspected of having drugs. School officials claimed the girls appeared “hyper and giddy” during their lunch hour.
During the searches, the nurse allegedly made disparaging remarks about one of the student’s breasts.
Gov. Cuomo called the allegations “deeply disturbing” and questioned whether race was a factor in the incident.
“Asking a child to remove her clothing — and then commenting on her body — is shaming, humiliating, traumatic sexual harassment,” he said. “In New York, we have zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind, especially in our schools, and we stand with those who are calling for clarity on this troubling incident.”
On Tuesday, the Binghampton City School District announced that it had hired a third-party law firm, Ferrara Fiorenza PC, to look into the claims, local station WBNG reported.
District officials have denied that any strip search took place.
“It must be reiterated [that] we have no evidence that a strip search was conducted by administration,” the school district said. “We only turn to medical assessment if we find clear reason to be concerned for our students’ safety and health — which is what occurred in this instance.”
During a school board meeting last week, officials said “misinformation” had been spread about the incident but confirmed the students were “evaluated,” an event that may require an individual to remove “bulky outside clothing to expose an arm so that vitals like blood pressure and pulse can be accessed.”
“This is not the same as a strip search,” it said.
School officials said the girls were not punished as a result of the incident and were allowed to return to class after being seen by the nurse.
Local advocacy group Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow, which posted about the incident on Facebook, said the student’s parents didn’t give consent for the alleged searches and were not alerted to what had happened until later.
The incident sparked protests outside the school on Tuesday, Jan. 22, with a rally led by the advocacy group, which described itself as a “collective of advocates, artists and agitators organizing around issues of race, class, gender and state violence through an anti-capitalist lens.” The Binghampton Press & Sun-Bulleton reported that more than 200 members of the community showed up in the cold and snow to protest what they call “institutional racism” by the school district’s leaders.
In a statement to NBC News, PLOT criticized school leaders for denying the strip searches before an investigation could prove otherwise.
“The Binghamton City School District should never have stated ‘no students were strip-searched,’ solely due to an assumed lack of evidence — especially before the criminal, state or independent investigation has been concluded …,” they said Wednesday. “The first-hand accounts of the four victims are evidence, both legally and morally, and we stand behind these girls 100 percent.”
Watch more in the clip below.
Rally at #EastMiddle in #Binghamton regarding the allegations of a strip search of four female students on Jan. 15. Read our local coverage at Pressconnects.com.
Posted by pressconnects.com / Press & Sun-Bulletin on Tuesday, January 29, 2019