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Strip Search at School Leads to Lawsuit

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of three girls who were subjected to a strip search. The strip search was conducted at Atlantic High School in Atlantic, Iowa. The lawsuit names the school district and two school officials who were part of the strip search, allegedly. The incident occurred on August 21, 2009.

strip%20search3.jpgThe three students, Matthew Jacobsen, Lisa Ferguson and Lee Lank were accused, along with two other students, of stealing $100 from a student’s purse in the girl’s locker room. The lawsuit states that the then assistant principal and athletic director, Paul Croghan ordered the guidance counselor Heather Turpin to strip search a total of five female students. Croghan waited in the adjacent room while the counselor made the girls remove their clothing, one at a time, to various degrees. No money was discovered on them at that time.

After the event occurred, Croghan was placed on administrative leave and in November of 2009, he resigned his position. Turpin is still employed with the school district.

According to one of the girls’ attorneys, Edward Noethe, the attorneys had tried to make several attempts with the school district to settle the case out of court, to no avail. He also believes that the circumstances will make it difficult for his client to live in the small community. He did not provide specifics on the types of steps he took to resolve the matter out of court, nor the amount of money the plaintiffs were seeking.

The lawsuit states that the search of the girls “constituted an unreasonable search” under the 14th Amendment. Further, it states that this type of code is part of the Atlantic Community School District’s code, which the two officials were following when they performed the search. The lawsuit states that the search was a violation of the US Constitution.

Also, the petition filed in court states that the Constitution of Iowa also includes a provision that does not allow for such unreasonable searches to be conducted and therefore the school was in violation. The Iowa Student Searches Act was violated by the school and further the student’s privacy was invaded during the search.