Do Children Have Any Rights?

Any point in the long line of events leading to the Supreme Court hearing a case on the strip search of students by school officials demonstrates that we’ve collectively lost our minds. It’s easy enough to shout “Will no one think of the children,” and I will. Will no one think of the children? Not as an emotional plea, although that is valid. This is a demand for recognition that children are individuals, as well, with the same complement of rights protected by the Constitution. We can debate the degree to which they are fully vested versus held in “trust” (e.g. free speech), and that’s a useful debate. This is not that.

None of the lawyers had a particularly easy time of it. Matthew W. Wright, representing the school district, said that intimate searches should be allowed even for the most common over-the-counter drugs.

“At some point it gets silly,” Justice David H. Souter said. “Having an aspirin tablet does not present a health and safety risk.”

Mr. Wright did draw the line at searches of students’ body cavities, but only on the practical ground that school officials are not trained to conduct such searches. Mr. Wright said there was no legal obstacle to such a search.

Mr. Wright, and the government, may have a legal point on this topic using strict semantics. But the moral question is clear. These children own their bodies. They are due the same respect and dignity we offer to adults. (We violate the rights of adults. The point is that we violate the rights of children more.) Anyone who would propose that school officials could legitimately perform a body cavity search on a student if properly trained has lost his way.

I know enough to understand that the questions asked by Justices are not necessarily indicative of the eventual outcome. With that caveat:

Without intimating a view on the ickiness of what Mr. Wolf had described, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. suggested that the law might treat different undergarments differently. “The issue here covers the brassiere as well,” he said, “which doesn’t seem as outlandish as the underpants.”

Not as outlandish, perhaps, but according to whom? The student, or does her (or his) opinion not matter? I know, DRUGS!@#$!@!!!. But, is there any room for the consideration that the person searched might find exploring her brassiere outlandish? If we extend this to even younger students, as a ruling in the school’s favor surely would over a short period of time, would a female student who develops breasts earlier than her classmates be self-conscious of this fact? Could it be mortifying to have her brassiere searched? Is there a “breast-no breasts” exception to the Fourth Amendment, or just a general view that children have no rights?

“My thought process,” Justice Souter said, “is I would rather have the kid embarrassed by a strip search, if we can’t find anything short of that, than to have some other kids dead because the stuff is distributed at lunchtime and things go awry.”

Notice that Justice Souter states what he would rather have when comparing the strip search of a minor and an event that has no verifiable examples. This is the same idiocy that states that pre-emptive, legalized torture is acceptable because there might be a ticking time bomb. What is done is subservient to why the actor does it because DRUGS!@#$!@!!!.

Radley Balko sums it up best:

It’s a little troubling to see how comfortable these old men (Ginsburg isn’t quoted in the article) seem to be with allowing school administrators access to the genitalia of school children based on nothing more than a hunch that they might be “crotching” some ibuprofen.

At this point, the drug war really can’t be parodied, can it?

This is madness.

John Cole offers a good summary of this case, titled “I’m Not a Lawyer or a Constitutional Scholar”:

And as such, will probably not understand the legal intricacies of this case that was debated in the Supreme Court yesterday. However, I can state that as someone with an IQ over room temperature, the fact that we are debating whether it is appropriate for school authorities to strip search kids is a sure sign that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong with this country and our sense of perspective, and I blame the war on drugs.

That’s succinct to the point of perfection.


I got the Balloon Juice link from Doug Mataconis at Below The Beltway. I no longer read Balloon Juice, even though Mr. Cole provides excellent commentary like the quote above. His update to the post reminds me why I no longer read. After an excerpt from a linked summary he introduces with “Government by old men afraid of advil is disgusting”, Mr. Cole writes:

Where is the outrage? Oh, yeah. They are too busy protesting the fact that Bill Gate’s taxes are going to go up 3%! Tyranny!

Link to examples, if they exist. I’m sure they do. But it is shrill and unfair to mock – out-of-context – someone’s opposition to another issue and imply that agitating for one issue makes having a coherent position on another topic is impossible. This is common, as I’ve experienced, but it’s a pathetic tactic in any context. If someone has made up his mind on a topic, that’s okay. I have, for example. But that person should be prepared to defend himself if he brings up the topic. If not, don’t bring up the topic. Doing so is the sign of an incurious, closed mind.