Some Heartland parents who say their daughters were violated at school could be just days away from filing a lawsuit against the school district.
Eleven Poplar Bluff Junior High students claim that they were strip searched by the school nurse on January 6th, when 55-dollars was missing from the gym office. Now the parents of ten of those girls want to file a civil rights lawsuit. According to attorneys Mark and Doug Kennedy, who are now representing the group of parents, school employees not only violated the district's handbook by conducting the alleged strip search, but they also violated the students' civil rights.
The attorneys point out that the school's handbook does permit students to be searched for weapons and illegal substances, but not for money. Mark Kennedy quotes from page 12 of the Poplar Bluff Junior High 2002-2003 Student Handbook, “The Poplar Bluff R-1 schools reserve the right to search…for illegal and unauthorized drugs, drug paraphernalia, controlled substances, alcoholic beverages, and unauthorized weapons.” Kennedy also points out that the handbook further states, “Any form of strip search is expressly forbidden.”
But according to the ten girls involved in the potential lawsuit, they and another girl were singled out and strip-searched for the missing 55-dollars. The girls have told their parents and their attorneys that they were each taken into the nurse's office, where the nurse proceeded to look and feel inside their undergarments for the missing money. Two of the girls say they were even strip-searched a second time.
A ccording to the attorneys, all of the girls claim that the school’s assistant principal not only aware of what was going on, but was personally involved in the search process. Mark Kennedy says the alleged incident has taken an emotional toll on the girls, who range in age from 12 to 15. They claim it has left them feeling humiliated, scared, and violated.
Poplar Bluff School Superintendent Randy Winston told Heartland News earlier this month that the students’ story is not the way things happened. According to Winston, the girls were simply asked to turn out their pockets and shake out their clothes.
But Mark Kennedy says he feels certain the girls are telling the truth. Kennedy says he plans to talk with the school district’s attorney later this week, and if they are unable to work the problem out, the parents will proceed with their lawsuit. If that does happen, Kennedy says the parents will be seeking not only monetary damages, but also public acknowledgement and an apology by the school district, and disciplinary action against the staff involved.