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Tamar Abrams Headshot

One Strip-Search Too Many

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Are you a parent? Do you recall having a talk with your preschooler about "bad touches" and "private parts" of the body? I do. I remember so clearly telling my now 16-year-old daughter that she should never let strangers touch her and that she was in charge of her own body. That was 13 years ago but it seems like yesterday.

Perhaps that's why I have such a visceral reaction to yesterday's Supreme Court hearing on whether school officials have the right to strip-search a 13-year-old girl suspected of hiding Advil. The very thought of a strip search on a child that young makes my stomach hurt. But to hear that Justice Breyer equates it with disrobing for gym class is horrifying. There is a huge difference between voluntarily taking your clothes off -- and of course I always did it behind a post - in front of other kids and having adults in authority ordering you to reveal your body to them.

How many of us are willing to send our preteen and adolescent kids to school each morning, open to the possibility that they may be strip-searched for Tylenol? I agree that we don't want illegal contraband circulating in the school -- though of course we all know that drugs, alcohol and other substances are there, even in the best schools -- but neither do we want our children violated.

It is sickening to know that the Supreme Court chamber echoed with laughter during this particular case, especially given that the girl who was strip searched was in the gallery. I know that memories of the awkwardness of middle school can often cause us to laugh in embarrassment -- how many of us get through those years unscathed? But for one girl, her 13th year will always be recalled as a time when she was stripped to her underwear and forced by adults to pull aside her underwear for their inspection. No laughter in that memory. And we as a nation must ensure that only one child graduates in that unfortunate class.

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