2 teens' families sue over strip searches at school

Maryland

November 04, 2005|By TOM PELTON | TOM PELTON,SUN REPORTER

The families of two teenagers who say they were illegally strip searched for drugs at an Eastern Shore high school last year filed suit against the school system yesterday with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Heather Gore and Jessica Bedell, now both 17, were carrying no drugs and are seeking unspecified damages and policies barring strip searches in Kent County schools, said Deborah A. Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland.

"We think the search of these girls went far overboard, and it shouldn't happen again," Jeon said. "We are hoping to require this school and sheriff's department to establish procedures and guidelines to prevent this kind of incident in the future."

Bonnie Ward, superintendent for schools in Kent County, declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in Kent County Circuit Court.

The plaintiffs charge that the Kent County High School principal invited the sheriff's department into the school to conduct a "lockdown," during which officers conducted warrantless searches of students and their property, using dogs to sniff for drugs.

Bedell, now a student at Temple University in Philadelphia, was forced to lift her skirt and expose her underwear, according to the ACLU. An officer subjected Gore, then 15, to a "full-body strip search," which turned up nothing illegal, the ACLU said.

tom.pelton@baltsun.com

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