Imagine you’re sitting at home and your child comes home from school the first day back after spring break. Your child tells you that everyone in the school was searched by police. How would you respond?
A lot of parents would be outraged.
Among those are the parents in Worth County, Georgia, where this actually happened.
On April 14, when the students of Worth County High School returned from spring break, they arrived at school to find a police state had taken over. The sheriff and his deputies — with no probable cause — detained and illegally searched every single child in the school, all 900 of them.
When kids went home that day to tell their parents what happened, naturally, they were furious as it is a gross violation of the children’s 4th Amendment rights.
“It’s essentially a fourth amendment violation,” said attorney Mark Begnaud. “It’s 900 illegal searches, suspicion-less pat downs, suspicion-less searches.”
Naturally, Sheriff Jeff Hobby is standing by this rights violation on a massive scale, noting that as long as a school administrator was present, the search of the children was legal.
To be fair, the courts have usually found that schools were within their rights to conduct things like random locker searches. Of course, the difference there is that the lockers are technically school property, not the students’.
Tommy Coleman, the attorney for the Worth County School Board, noted that there is still a problem. Probable cause is still needed to conduct such searches.
“If you don’t have that then this search would violate an individual’s rights,” said Coleman. “[It] violates the constitutional right and enforcing them the right against unreasonable search and seizures.”
Interim Worth County Superintendent Lawrence Walters said he understands parents concerns about the drug search at Worth County High school on Friday, according to WALB.
“I’ve never been involved with anything like that ever in the past 21 years and I don’t condone it,” said Walters.
Walters said he was notified about the searches, but that he didn’t give permission for such an invasion of privacy. He also added that he does not condone touching of students.
Sheriff Hobby, despite finding absolutely nothing during the search, still maintains that he believes there are drugs on campus.
Hobby’s department previously conducted a search of the high school back in March but found nothing. He believed that the search wasn’t thorough enough, so he apparently took it upon himself to order another search, this time ignoring basic constitutional principles, opening the county up to litigation, and still came up with squat.
For the record, Worth County is in my neck of the woods. My sister-in-law graduated from this very school last year. This is a rural school where it’s unlikely there’s a major drug operation going on inside the school system.
Are there drugs? Possibly. Even probably.
Are there enough drugs in the schools to warrant violating the civil liberties of every student after a previous search came up empty? Hardly.
Sheriff Hobby is likely going to have a stiff challenge when he’s up for reelection after this.