Going to college, even to The Citadel, should not mean you check your civil liberties at the door.
If what former Cadet Jordyn Jackson alleges happened on March 8 is true, however, then there’s some explaining to be done.
As reported this week, Jackson and her lawyer say Jackson was subjected to a strip search in reference to a smell in her dorm room.
Yes, college officials have rights to search your room or property; the Citadel’s student handbook explains that. It also says that the searches may be conducted by “officials of the college.”
Col. Thomas Harris, 64, the battalion tactical officer who is listed as being present at the search, does not want to talk to the media.
He was the only “college official” because the rest were all upperclassmen.
When students are policing other students, things can get out of hand.
It’s one thing to have upperclassmen drilling discipline into knobs and upholding the honor code. It’s quite another to have them acting as police.
Are strip searches a regular occurrence on the campus?
“I can’t say it’s never happened, but it’s so infrequent that I can’t say that anybody can recall the previous time it’s happened,” said Jeff Perez, the college’s vice president of external affairs.
“When you’re a cadet you have an expectation that you’ll have to follow regulations,” Perez said. No question about that. But it ought to go both ways.
“We take our core values very seriously—honor, duty and respect,” Perez said.
That ought to go both ways too.
No matter what Cadet Jackson’s record is, nobody deserves to be humiliated by a strip search, especially conducted by one’s peers.
It does not matter if the men waited outside. It does not matter if there was a woman present. It does not matter if nobody touched Jackson.
None of these things changes the fact that what is alleged to have taken place is demeaning, degrading and demoralizing.
Ask Ohio resident Shoshana Hebshi, who alleges she was removed from a flight at Detroit Metro Airport in 2011 and strip searched by the TSA.
Ask Savana Redding, who at 13 – yes, 13 – was strip searched at her school because administrators thought she hid ibuprofen in her underwear.
The Supreme Court, in an April 2012 ruling, affirmed that officials may strip search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails.
In response to that ruling, ACLU legal director Steven R. Shapiro said: “Being forced to strip naked is a humiliating experience that no one should have to endure absent reasonable suspicion.
“Jail security is important, but it does not require routinely strip searching everyone who is arrested for any reason, including traffic violations, and who may be in jail for only a few hours.”
Jordyn Jackson wasn’t in jail. She was not arrested. There were no campus or police officers present.
If the report is accurate, it is very, very troubling indeed.
Reach Melanie Balog at 937-5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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