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Strip Searched for Advil

Written by Katrina Moncure Sep 30, 2007

I see pretty appalling news stories every day on the youth rights news wire, but I have to say this one really got to me.

Basically, school officials in Arizona forced a 13-year-old to strip down all the way, even removing her underwear, just because they suspected she had some ibuprofen. This happened four years ago, and her mother rightfully took this to the courts, only for the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals to side with the school.

You know, you can say all these laws on youth are there to protect them and serve their best interests, under the delusion that adults always know better, but who was being benefited here? Certainly not the girl. What is she and other students being taught when they can be personally violated because of a mere suspicion that they may be carrying a perfectly legal substance?

I mean, at work, there’d be nothing wrong with me having, taking, or giving some ibuprofen to a coworker. We even have a first aid box with some ibuprofen packets for us to use whenever the need arises. Now, if I had cocaine or something, then yes, I’d lose my job and get arrested, and if this girl had cocaine, then I could see some real reason for the strip search.

But ibuprofen? The mild anti-inflammatory pain reliever sitting on our store shelves under the labels of Advil, Motrin, and others? Why am I, a 24-year-old lab assistant, allowed to take some for a headache or offer it to a friend with cramps, yet if a 13-year-old student does it, she’s basically a drug pusher?

You don’t care about her. That’s the truth. These zero tolerance regulations on students, this outright hysteria over drugs and teenagers in general, does not benefit the students in the least. It benefits school administrators who want to look good to the public who doesn’t know any better. Slap together some sensationalist news stories about teens and drugs, get the public terrified that drugs are everywhere, make them want a quick solution, and there you have teens once again being scapegoated so those in charge can make their constituents think they’re solving a problem.

Never mind that this girl was essentially sexually abused. I mean, why was removing her underwear even necessary? That sort of thing should only be done by law enforcement when an actual law is being broken, but in this case, wouldn’t happen because she was breaking no laws. The school just wanted to exert their control.

And that’s the other thing this is about. Most laugh it off, but it’s true. Those in charge think they can get away with treating teenagers so carelessly because, really, they don’t consider them their equals. They believe them to be lesser beings over whom they must dominate. They use the excuse that it’s for their own good, but who was this benefiting? If the girl had the ibuprofen, who is she harming? Theoretically, she could have taken the whole bottle if she wanted to kill herself, but that’s a stupid excuse, since there are so many other ways to kill yourself. Could she have given some to a student who was allergic or otherwise could not have it? Well, it’s up to that student to know better. That isn’t a terribly hard concept for a 13-year-old to grasp. Then again, it does seem a hard concept for their adult overlords to grasp.

No, this is just another example of adults impressing on youth over and over that they are not equals, that being equals is dangerous, being adult is dangerous, being self-reliant is dangerous. Only an adult can choose for herself to take a mild pain reliever or offer one to a friend. When a teen does it, she’s a criminal who has thus sacrificed the right to her own body.

So, yeah, tell me. How is this protecting them? Only thing protected here is the overflated adult chauvinistic ego, which seriously needs to come down a few pegs.

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