Supreme Court Takes Up Landmark Case

By Camaron Abundes   
NewsWest 9

HOBBS- After six years, Savana Redding feels vindicated. The 19-year-old is a long way from Stafford Middle School in Stafford, AZ but memories of an invasive strip search are difficult to forget. Back in 2003, a school secretary and nurse forced her to disrobe while they searched for prescription-strength ibuprofen. The search did not yield the medication, but the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

"I feel like I helped contribute to something big." Redding said she never expected to see the case make it so far.

The Supreme Court decided in a 8-1 ruling, that officials at Safford Middle School violated then 13-year-old Redding's 4th amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizures.

"When you go to school, your parents tell you to do what they tell you to and so that's what I did. But the whole time, I felt really degraded. It was horrible." Redding said the ordeal left her humiliated.

Redding did not want to return to school and says she developed trust issues along with ulcers from the stress of the case.

"Those people were standing in there and looking at my body for no reason," Redding said.

Redding is staying with her father in Hobbs, NM. She was attending Eastern Arizona University where she was working on a degree in psychology.  On Thursday afternoon, Redding sat playing SIMS on a laptop fielding calls from reporters from across the country. She says the ruling from the nation's highest court is a victory.

"I feel like I've helped with other students rights. So they don't think their rights aren't just being trampled on when they go to school," Redding said under TV lights in the kitchen of her fathers home.

"The Court once again ruled that students have constitutional rights. They don't lose their constitutional rights when they go to school," ACLU Legal Director, Steven Shapiro said.

While some are hailing the decision as a win for students rights. Matthew Wright, attorney with Safford Middle School issued this statement: "School Officials now have to be very careful in going forward. The general advice is better not to do any strip searches that involve disrobing a student because it's clear you're going to be second guessed.

The Justices did leave room for interpretation, ruling searches should be allowed if students safety is at risk.

"We hope that the decision doesn't act in such a way that school districts are fearful of acting or taking the necessary measures that they need to take to ensure student safety," Francisco Negron, with the National School Board's Association, said.

The school officials who orchestrated the search were not found personally liable.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the only dissenting voice.

"If I had known that I could have said no then yeah I would have." Redding says she is glad other students will not have to face similar embarrassment from an unnecessary search, "I was extremely embarrassed and I couldn't believe what was happening. I had no idea what to do because I was so young I had never been through anything like that before. Those people were standing in there and looking at my body for no reason."