School sued for strip-searching 10-year-old wrongly accused of stealing $20

The parents of a boy who was strip-searched by an assistant principal after he was wrongly accused of stealing money have sued the school district. The complaint, filed by Clarinda and Lionel Cox, alleges the strip search was a violation of their son Justin's constitutional protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. The boy was in fifth grade at Union Elementary School in Fayetteville, North Carolina when the incident took place on June 1. According to the complaint, Justin was accused of stealing $20 after he found the bill, returned it to his owner and she lost it again. 

Assistant principal Teresa Holmes asked Justin to remove all his clothes except for his undershorts and undershirt and then she "put her fingers inside the waistband of J.C.'s undershorts and ran her fingers around the waistband," says the complaint. 

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The missing $20 bill was eventually found by another teacher on the cafeteria floor, but the damage and humiliation to Justin were already done. Cox says she was floored when Justin came home and told her how he'd been treated and describes her son as "traumatized" from the incident. 

Unbelievably, when Cox confronted Holmes about the strip-search, the assistant principal allegedly told the mom that she was well within her rights to do so. But that's exactly the opposite of what the complaint states. According to an attorney for a civil liberties organization associated with the complaint, schools usually don't know the law and the Cox's case is a clear violation of Justin's Fourth Amendment rights guarding against unreasonable searches and seizures. 

I feel terrible for what this little boy must have gone through. I would have been enraged if this had happened to one of my children. This is one case I'll be following closely because I simply can't imagine why school employees are not better informed as to what they can and cannot do with our children. 

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Topics: school  controversy