NEW ORLEANS — The ACLU is looking into complaints from north Louisiana parents who say their teenage children were held after school and strip-searched when a student reported the loss of $42.
Melinda Ponder says her 15-year-old daughter was ordered to strip down to her bra and panties in the classroom at Caldwell High School in Columbia, 30 miles south of Monroe. Ponder said boys were taken to a bathroom where they were told to drop their pants.
She said parents were not notified of the strip search or told that their children had been held after school.
“The way we found out was, our daughter didn’t come home,” Ponder said. After missing the school bus because of the search, the girl called her parents for a ride home. “When we go to pick her up, she’s visibly shaken,” Ponder told The Associated Press.
Ponder and other parents have taken to a community page on Facebook to air their unhappiness over Tuesday’s search.
Ponder said her husband filed an online complaint about Tuesday’s strip search with the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana. The New Orleans-based organization’s director, Marjorie Esman, issued a statement saying the school owes students an apology — and a commitment to uphold the law.
“We put out a statement to make sure school officials are on notice,” Esman said Thursday. She declined to say how many parents have reached out to the ACLU or whether a lawsuit is planned.
“This invasion of the privacy and due process rights of students directly violates clear precedent by the United States Supreme Court,” the ACLU statement said. “Strip searches by school officials are generally regarded as so intrusive that they cannot be legally justified. “
Neither the Caldwell Parish School Board nor the Sheriff’s Office returned calls from the AP for comment but both agencies told Monroe-area media that investigations were underway.