Supreme Court Hears Case of Teen's 'Embarrassing' School Strip Search

Supreme Court showdown over student privacy rights, school drug policy.

ByABC News via GMA logo
April 20, 2009, 12:13 PM

April 21, 2009— -- When Savana Redding was summoned from her middle school classroom to the principal's office, she remembers walking down the hallway wondering why.

"I had never been in trouble," said Savana, then a 13-year-old honor student in the small town of Safford, Ariz. "I thought maybe something good was happening."

But when she walked in the office, she ran headlong into school officials' zealous efforts to protect students from drugs. Suspecting Savana, school officials subjected her to an invasive strip search -- without ever calling her mother.

That search now has set the stage for a significant Supreme Court showdown that could redefine student privacy rights and outline important guidelines for school officials as they seek out dangerous contraband, like drugs, weapons or alcohol.

Savana, now 18, says her case -- being subjected to a strip search for what amounted to two Advils -- shows guidelines are necessary.

"They asked me to take off my clothes, and I did while they stood there," Savana said. "When I was finally in my underwear, I thought, 'OK, they are gong to let me put my clothes back on.'"

"They just looked at me and said, 'well, now you have to pull out your bra and shake it and your underwear as well," she said, her eyes filling with tears. "I really wanted to cry."

School officials were worried about reports of students using drugs and alcohol. When an eighth grade girl was found with a cigarette and pills, she pointed the finger at Savana. In the principal's office, Savana denied she had any pills. A search of her backpack turned up nothing, so the vice principal said the school nurse would conduct a strip search.

"They saw everything," Savana said of the search, conducted by the school nurse and a secretary. "It was really embarrassing. These are people that I see every day."

Savana said there was one thought going through her mind during the search: "Where's my mom?"

"I just wanted to know where my mom was and why were they doing this to me," she recalled in a recent interview with ABC News.