Middle School Under Fire For Allegedly Strip-Searching 12-Year-Old Girls

by Cassandra Stone
Image via Myung J. Chun/Getty

The girls parents say their daughters are too traumatized to return to school

A middle school is coming under fire for reprimanding four 12-year-old girls and then allegedly subjecting them to strip searches in the school nurse’s office. The disciplinary action was brought forth because the girls apparently appeared “hyper and giddy” during their lunch hour.

Many local community members of the Binghamton East Middle School are upset about the way the girls and their parents say they were treated by the school.

A school board meeting was held earlier this week, and the community group Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow urged people via social media to attend. Nearly 200 people showed up.

According to their Facebook page, the group consists of “advocates, artists, and agitators organizing around issues of race, class, gender, and state violence through an anti-capitalist lens.” They seek to “empower, uplift, and ultimately liberate the most marginalized members of society—including and especially those who are Black, queer, trans, disabled, cash poor, women and/or non-men.”

The four girls, who are black, say they were questioned and “strip-searched” by the school nurse and assistant principal following lunch. According to a statement released by the girls’ parents, the girls were “individually taken to a private space in the Health Office and held for over an hour” while being searched for drugs and other illegal substances.

“Three of our girls complied to the tests and observations, as well as the searches, and were then allowed to return to class. One of our girls complied to the tests, but refused to remove her clothing for the search, and was sent to in-school suspension.”

The school has issued a statement denying a “strip search” took place, but the district says that school staff can conduct physical or medical evaluations if they observe behavior that is “out of character” in students.

A medical evaluation “may require the removal of bulky outside clothing to expose an arm so that vitals like blood pressure and pulse can be assessed. This is not the same as a strip search,” the statement reads.

The girls’ parents are upset because they did not consent to these searches. “We, as parents, were not notified by the school before or after these searches occurred.” In their statement, the school district the “on-the-spot” decisions to search and conduct medical tests are for students’ health and well-being. The school also denies any of the girls were punished after being evaluated.

The parents’ say the girls have missed several days of school following the ordeal and are having trouble transitioning back into the classroom: “They no longer feel safe at East Middle.”

The president of the local NAACP chapter in Broome Tioga, New York, Micah Barreiro, says he’s given the school board a list of demands — they include the removal of the principal, the assistant principal, and the nurse who conducted the searches.

“This is outrageous that these girls got strip-searched and nobody got suspended,” Barreiro says. “School rules say parents have to be informed before anything like this happens.”