The mother of an eighth grader who was strip-searched at her middle school in Detroit, Michigan, over a non-existent vape pen has filed a lawsuit.
The 14-year-old girl was forced to take off her clothes at George Crockett Academy on April 25.
The student was searched after another student with a history of bullying the teen told the staff that she had hidden a vape pen in her underwear. According to WXYZ News, the student was strip-searched in the principal’s office.
The teenager was forced to remove her pants, lift her bra up and fold down her underwear in the principal’s office. The eighth grader was reportedly menstruating, and the search stopped after the staff saw an object in her underwear and was told by the teen that it was a menstrual pad.
The Detroit News reports that school leader Thomas Goodley allowed two female staff members, instructional coach Shawn Schwartz and counselor Lakeisha Johnson to search the student.
The lawsuit contends that the search stopped after one of the women believed the teen was not hiding a vape pen as Johnson had reportedly given the teenager the pad earlier in the day and knew she was menstruating.
The teenager was sent back to class and her mother, Yvette Dinwiddie, said her daughter was “visibly distraught” when she picked her up from school.
“She said, ‘Mom, they thought I had an electronic cigarette, and they made me take my clothes off.’ I said, ‘What?’ She was totally embarrassed,” recalled Dinwiddie. “It baffled me why y’all didn’t call me, and I feel that y’all didn’t call me because y’all knew that you was wrong.”
Dinwiddie filed a police report the same day and later hired the Ernst Law Firm, PLC, which filed the lawsuit on May 3 at Wayne County Circuit Court against the school on behalf of the family.
The lawsuit claims that the school violated the teenager’s Fourth Amendment Rights. Dinwiddie also said that she was initially told by Goodley that her daughter was not strip-searched but that he later said her daughter volunteered to be searched to prove her innocence.
The lawsuit claims that the George Crockett Academy had no right to strip search the eighth-grade student.
“It has long been said that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door,” said the family’s attorney, Hannah Fielstra. “The school had no justifiable reason to strip search an eighth-grade girl for a vape pen. It is not a weapon and did not present an imminent danger to anyone.”
“There were no credible threats of violence. A strip search is one of the most invasive searches recognized by law, and it was performed on a teenage girl during school. The circumstances of this strip search were not only humiliating, but her constitutional rights were violated. The school went too far.”
The lawsuit also stated that the office where the teen was searched had two windows, and only one of the windows was covered during the search. The teen is reportedly afraid to return to classes at the school due to fear, humiliation and embarrassment. The George Crockett Academy has yet to comment on the strip search.