Thursday, June 25, 2009

Zero tolerance for zero tolerance

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Fear of terrorists, fear of drugs -- fear itself shall be the law.

Does the hullabaloo about legal "loopholes" allowing gun sales to people secretly on an FBI terrorist list but not charged with anything, have anything to do with allowing school officials to strip a young girl half naked and rummage around in her underwear? Should people working for a local high school have police powers yet not be restrained by the responsibility a policeman has to explain the accused's rights? I think both cases illustrate the struggle between expediency and respect for civil rights and in neither case do I feel that the foundation of our legal system was to make it very, very easy for any authority to treat suspects as convicts.

Clarence Thomas was the only Supreme Court member to think such things as a summary strip search of an 8th grade girl are legal, although he may or may not think it's wrong. True to his Republican principles, he differentiates between law and justice as though one was not to serve the other. Of course I might often agree with that, but not this time. Thomas clearly stated that the "scourge of drugs" trumps the right to due process and elevates a school principal above the powers and responsibilities a police officer has. In his dissenting opinion, he claimed the court was making a “deep intrusion” into the administration of public schools and their efforts, constitutional or otherwise, to fight the scourge of drug abuse. Fear trumps the law, fear trumps justice, fear trumps freedom, due process and in some cases, common decency. Fear is turning some of our schools into little versions of Stalinist Russia where any accusation is as good as guilt.

I haven't read the transcripts and I have never walked through the door of a law school, but the sense of outrage can't be exclusive to me or any other parent and the legitimacy of allowing school personnel, who would otherwise go to prison for doing what they did, to have such authority simply because of the grave danger that Savana Redding might have had an Advil hidden on her person. I can say with near certainty, that had it been my 13 year old daughter, there would be some folks at Safford Middle School in need of their own pain pills.

While most of us would disagree with Thomas and would side with the majority decision that the danger was so minimal that such a false accusation could not justify personal violation of that sort by people who are, after all, not policemen, some appear to be quite happy with using innuendo, suspicion and prejudice to deprive anyone of his civil rights. After all, we passed a Patriot Act designed to do just that and suggested that those who opposed it weren't true Americans.

In other countries; in countries that value freedom more than we do, there would be demonstrations in the streets against the things we ignore while giggling about the sex lives of Senators. It's sad.


RR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RR said...

I hadn't head about Thomas' dissent until now... Appalling.

We obviously have a Nazi-like authoritarian on the court -- one even worse than the one I knew we had (Scalia).

Capt. Fogg said...

He makes Scalia look like a lefty.