A former middle-school student who was strip-searched by school officials looking for ibuprofen pain medication won a partial victory of her Supreme Court appeal Thursday in a case testing the discretion of officials to ensure classroom safety. Savana Redding was 13 when administrators suspected that she was carrying banned drugs. No medication was found, and she later sued. The justices concluded that the search was unreasonable but that individual school administrators could not be sued. The larger issue of whether a campus setting traditionally gives schools greater authority over students suspected of illegal activity than police are allowed was not addressed fully by the divided court. 

 “Savana’s subjective expectation of privacy against such a search is inherent in her account of it as embarrassing, frightening and humiliating,” wrote Justice David Souter for the majority, likely his last opinion before he steps down from the bench next week. But reflecting the divisiveness over the issue, Souter said, “We think these differences of opinion from our own are substantial enough to require immunity for the school officials in this case.” Whether the school district would be liable was not an issue before the high court.

                A group, of Albany Law students filed a friend of the court brief in support of the constitutional rights of Savana. The law students, under the guidance of Professor Ray Brescia and the leadership of senior Umair Khan, now a graduate, spent two months preparing their argument in support of the girl. In the brief, Khan said, “The group surveyed the history of teacher-student relations and concluded that the search, viewed through either the reasonableness standard lens of the common law or under modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, was unconstitutional.” “The group also compiled an extensive historical record, which included teachers’ manuals and case law from the 19th century and writings by the pioneers of America’s education system,” Khan said. Contributing to the brief were Rob Magee, now graduated, and Ben Loefke, Meredith Perry, Matthew Rozea and Erika Winkler.

Read more about the decision here and about the Albany Law Students here.