Oklahoma school principal sued over search of vape pen strips
The mother of an Oklahoma City middle school student has sued her daughter’s school for illegally strip-searching the student, which allegedly forced the child to lift her shirt, reveal her bra and face the principal and an uncovered window turn .
According to the complaint filed March 3 in Oklahoma state court, school officials suspected that the girl had in her possession a nicotine vape pen and then searched her per the director’s orders. No vape pen was found during the search and no search warrant was obtained prior to the search.
The girl, identified as “SW” in the court filing, claims through the filing that she was forced to “expose her stomach and the top of her boxers and turn around” in a room with an open window, which she closed the school suspended general access areas. Headteacher Veronica Johnson – who is also named as a defendant – oversaw the search and asked SW “what underwear she was wearing under her pants.” SW’s mother claims that Johnson “ordered SW to lift her shirt high enough so that [she] could see the underage child’s bra.”
Along with the principal, Edmond Public Schools and Heartland Middle School are named as defendants.
The lawsuit alleges willful infliction of emotional distress, negligence, violation of school policy, improper search and seizure under state and federal law, sexual assault and simple assault. The plaintiffs are seeking over $25,000 in damages, alleging that SW suffered “extreme emotional distress and hardship” as a result of the incident.
Both Oklahoma law and mirror school policy specifically prohibit strip searches beyond removing students’ outer clothing. According to the law, any search conducted by school officials “must be reasonably related to the objective of the search and not be overly intrusive given the age and sex of the student and the nature of the violation.”
The law contains a clear prohibition of the type of search that SW says took place: “In no case shall a strip search of a student be permitted. Students’ clothing, with the exception of cold-weather outerwear, shall not be removed prior to or during the conduct of a warrantless search.”
Had there not been a specific prohibition on school strip searches, an analysis of SW’s search would raise questions about what contraband was being sought and what expectations a middle school student would have of privacy on school property. However, since strip searches are specifically prohibited, the law should present a major hurdle to any defense on behalf of school officials.
A representative for the Edmond Public Schools District declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Law&Crime contacted the plaintiff’s attorney for comment, but received no immediate response.
You can read the full complaint here.
In recent years, legal problems for school districts over vape pen searches gone wrong have become increasingly common. A Wisconsin school principal was even prosecuted after allegedly searching several high school students in a secluded bathroom. A judge later dismissed the false accusations of imprisonment.
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https://lawandcrime.com/education/oklahoma-principal-sued-over-illegal-vape-pen-strip-search-after-middle-schooler-says-she-was-ordered-to-show-her-bra-and-spin/ Oklahoma school principal sued over search of vape pen strips