Lawyer: Ex-Citadel cadet who filed strip-search complaint also endured racial harassment

Post and Courier file photo: Citadel cadets march on the parade grounds.

A former Citadel cadet who complained to police about being strip-searched in her dorm also endured an ongoing pattern of racial harassment at the military college, her attorney said this morning.

Jordyn Jackson, who has withdrawn from The Citadel, told campus officials about two months ago that she had been subjected to derogatory racial epithets by other cadets, both vocally and on notes slipped under her door, Charleston attorney Donald McCune said. She is black.

Jackson, 19, enrolled at The Citadel this school year with dreams of becoming a military officer, McCune said. He described her as “bright and tough,” and he said Jackson expected a certain amount of abuse by upperclassmen as a freshman “knob” at the publicly funded military school.

But McCune said the harassment that ensued was beyond what anyone could reasonably have expected.

“It was a continuing pattern of harassment to the point where she did not feel welcome,” McCune said. “These were incidents culminating in her feeling so distracted by it that she felt she had a duty to report it.”

The Citadel has been investigating her complaints, McCune said, but he has not been informed of any findings.

School spokeswoman Charlene Gunnells was away from the office this morning and referred questions to Jeff Perez, The Citadel’s vice president for external affairs. Perez did not immediately respond to an email from The Post and Courier.

Allegations of hazing and gender discrimination have surfaced at the school on several occasions over the years. The school has said it is making a concerted effort to curb those problems.

Jackson is a daughter Hue Jackson, former Oakland Raiders head coach and current Cincinnati Bengals assistant coach. She filed an assault/intimidation complaint with campus police on Monday regarding a Friday search in her dorm room.

She told police that Col. Thomas Harris, a battalion tactical officer in the commandant’s office, had a search conducted of her wardrobe and person after questioning an unspecified smell in her room. She stated that she was ordered to remove her clothes and pull down her underwear, but nothing was found, a police report stated.

Jackson told police Harris and males cadets were in the room for some portions of the search, but left when she stripped to her underwear and was naked, the report stated. A female cadet was called in to observe that portion of the search. Jackson was not touched during the incident, the report stated.

No one has been arrested or charged in connection with the episode, which remains under investigation by campus police, Perez said on Tuesday.

“At The Citadel, we treat with the utmost seriousness all claims of improper treatment of cadets,” Perez stated at that time.

McCune said it appears the search was a “stand-alone incident” and was not tied to Jackson’s earlier complaints about racial harassment. School officials never told Jackson what Harris thought he smelled before conducting the search, he said.

Jackson withdrew from school after the incident, McCune said.

“She was deeply disturbed, as anyone would be,” he said. “I think it was just the last straw as far as trying to conduct your life, your affairs, with some degree of personal dignity, in a stressful environment, and that put her over the edge.”

McCune said his client has left the state as she waits for the outcome of The Citadel’s investigation. He said the incident calls into question the environment that exists at a school that is supposed to function as a “leadership laboratory.”

“No one should be subjected to a strip search,” he said. “The school is a public university. It is not the military, and students there still have the right to be treated with basic human dignity. I certainly hope this is the exception and not the rule.”

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