Saturday, June 27, 2009

School's strip-search 'violates teen's rights'

A disgrace that this had to go all the way to SCOTUS. Immediate apologies and compensation should have been offered but the school officials were obviously too full of themselves for that. So they will now have a huge bill for legal costs -- paid by the ever-generous taxpayer, of course

Arizona school officials violated the rights of a 13-year-old girl when they ordered her strip-searched to look for extra-strength pain medication in her underwear, the US Supreme Court has ruled. In a closely-watched case, the high court ruled eight to one that the strip-search by the Safford, Arizona middle school violated the girl's Fourth Amendment constitutional right against "unreasonable searches". "Because there was no reason to suspect the drugs presented a danger or were concealed in her underwear, we hold that the search did violate the constitution," the high court opinion read.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court said the plaintiff could not sue for damages because at the time the illegality of the strip-search had not been established. "There is reason to question the clarity with which the right was established," the court opinion read. "The official who ordered the unconstitutional search is entitled to qualified immunity from liability."

The 2003 case involved 19-year-old plaintiff Savana Redding, then 13, who was made to undress in a school office by female staff after officials came to suspect that she had hidden a pill containing ibuprofen - a commonly used pain reliever and anti-inflammation drug - in her knickers or bra. The school found nothing, and the girl's mother sued the school district for subjecting the teenager to an "unreasonable search".

A local magistrate ruled for the school district and threw out the lawsuit, but the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later reversed the ruling, finding in a narrow six-to-five decision that the strip-search of an eighth-grader was unconstitutional - a finding upheld by the US high court on Thursday.


British headteachers to get more powers as Labour Party performs massive U-turn

Schools are to be freed from the key central government controls imposed under New Labour in a dramatic turnaround, it was reported today. The Government's 'national strategies' for education are to be scrapped, ending centralised prescription of teaching methods and of literacy and numeracy hours in primary schools. It will hand back powers to headteachers - and save the Government up to £100million a year currently spent employing private consultants to 'improve' schools, a newspaper reported.

The central controls, introduced after 1997, were the flagship of Labour's education policy under Tony Blair. The money saved on private consultants will instead be used to encourage successful schools to forge networks with worse-performing neighbours and to buy in their own advisers to help drive up standards.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families last night confirmed that the Education White Paper expected to be published next Tuesday will set out a new approach to provide more 'tailored' support to schools, based on their individual needs and circumstances. However, a spokesman insisted the changes were actually a mark of the success of the National Strategies. He said the reforms would not stop the daily literacy and numeracy hours introduced in the early Blair years. Schools are expected to continue with these because good teachers 'know this is the right thing to do'.

The DCSF spokesman said: 'Building on the successes we have seen since 1997, the White Paper will set out our new approach to local authority and school accountability and support, making the support that schools can access even more tailored to their individual needs and circumstances. 'The confidence that such a shift is viable is in many respects testament to the success of the National Strategies. 'All primary schools will continue to have daily English and maths lessons because strong school leaders know this is the right thing to do. We must continue to do the very best to ensure that all children get the reading and writing skills they need to succeed in later life. 'This is not about getting rid of the literacy and numeracy hours but a renewed push to raise standards and provide new forms of support and challenge for schools who need it.'

Tuesday's White Paper is also expected to include new U.S.-style 'report cards', giving grades to schools on a scale of A to F as well as information about truancy levels, behaviour and sporting achievements.

The Guardian today quoted sources close to the White Paper as saying that the Government's national strategy contracts with consultants Capita will be wound down from 2011. The company currently provides management advice, as well as materials and training to standardise teaching across schools. The White Paper follows a report from the Commons Schools Committee in April which criticised the 'degree of control' exercised by Whitehall over the curriculum and said lessons were too prescriptive and failed to take account of the needs of pupils in different areas. 'At times schooling has appeared more of a franchise operation, dependent on a recipe handed down by Government rather than the exercise of professional expertise by teachers,' said the report.


Shame of violent schools revealed

Report from South Australia (Population 1,600,000)

An average of 22 violent attacks, sexual incidents or drug abuse cases are reported each week in our schools, the Education Department has revealed. For the first time, it has released complete details of "critical incidents" serious enough to be reported in writing by schools to head office, ranging from knife attacks to sexual assaults.

In response to a Freedom of Information probe by Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire, the department released details of all incidents in the 2008 school year and 2009 so far, including 406 violent attacks, 97 sexual incidents, 180 threats, 20 abductions or stalking, 35 drug possessions and 24 cases of self-harm. Among the more serious cases at the state's primary and secondary schools were:

CHILD pornography spread on students' mobile phones.

A STUDENT shot in the eye, requiring surgery.

A RECEPTION student stabbing another student with a pencil.

THREE adults found having sex and using drugs in school toilets.

A GIRL held against her will, blindfolded and photographed.

THE stabbing of a student, which was filmed.

A STUDENT breaking into a teacher's house and sexually assaulting her.

A GIRL'S hair being set alight.

A TEACHER at school under the influence of drugs.

Australian Education Union state president Correna Haythorpe said teachers and students were increasingly being put in dangerous situations. "There is absolutely no doubt that these incidents are on the increase," she said. "What we need is a systematic approach which includes more student counsellors and more resources for our schools. "Otherwise it places teachers, staff and students at risk."

SA Secondary Principals Association president Jim Davies said the real concern was "strangers" coming into school grounds. "Those sorts of incidents certainly cause a lot of concern because whilst there will inevitably always be situations where students have a go at another group of students in your school, you have more control," he said. "When there is a third party involved that is not part of your school community, it is very difficult to have those proactive influences over those people coming in."

Child protection expert Freda Briggs said while the statistics were shocking, they were only the tip of the iceberg. "We know that not everyone reports this kind of behaviour, so we won't really know the true extent of what is happening," she said. "The real problem is much deeper. "The dangerous thing is that if this is continually happening in schools and if victims are fearful, they can't relax at school, so you will get reluctance to attend and learn." Including less-dangerous events which posed a threat to student safety but no injury, there were 1271 "critical incidents" reported to the department over the 15-month period, or around four every school day.

Students were by far the worst offenders, with 641 incidents blamed on their behaviour, 215 blamed on parents, 52 on other adults, 25 on former students and 20 on staff members. Knives were the weapon of choice in most armed assaults (38), followed by scissors (8), sticks (5), pens and pencils (6), rocks (5), desks and chairs (2), and garden spades (2). Many of the weapons were improvised from common school items such as a ruler, shot-put, fire extinguisher and wheelie bin.

Mr Brokenshire said it was disturbing that many of the crimes were filmed and the images distributed for pleasure. "This data shows why we need a police-in-schools program to build rapport with students and encourage law-abiding behaviour," he said. Mr Brokenshire said authorities should study school districts which had restricted the incidence of violence and implement these strategies in other areas.

Education Department chief executive Chris Robinson said the reporting of critical incidents was an effective way to ensure that schools got the support they needed. "While many of these reported incidents can be quite minor, we strongly encourage schools to report all incidents so they receive adequate support," he said. "Incident reports filled out by schools stem from reasons such as abusive parents, schoolyard incidents, accidents, after-hours break-ins and intruders. "Many of our schools have close working relationships with their local police and don't hesitate to call when help is required."



Anonymous said...

This is just one more reminder that the only real way to keep our economy strong is not by raising taxes, but by keeping taxes low, fair and simple. I don't know how we can keep our schools strong if the rest of the country is crumbling under these Obama taxes.

We need to take action and contact our legislators and sign petitions like the ones the U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs (here).

Robert said...

Well what do you know? A Ninth Circus ruling that was actually upheld by the Supreme Court!