Hundreds of Georgia students accuse local deputies of inappropriate touching during a schoolwide drug search

Lockers in school hallway.
(Image credit: iStock)

Students at Worth County High School in Sylvester, Georgia, are bringing a lawsuit against their local sheriff after he ordered his deputies to physically pat down hundreds of students in a four-hour, ultimately unfruitful search for drugs, The Washington Post reports. The students say that some of the deputies touched students under their underwear and that the students were forbidden from telling their parents what was happening while the search was underway:

According to the students' complaint, some of the deputies — [Sheriff Jeff] Hobby's office brought more than two dozen, the complaint says — stuck their hands in students' bras and underwear. The complaint includes allegations that some deputies cupped the genitals of the boys and exposed the breasts of some of the girls to their classmates.Sometimes the deputies wore gloves. Other times they didn't, according to the complaint.[…] "Some people were crying," the ninth-grade student said in an interview. "Kids weren't allowed to go home, they weren't allowed to tell their parents" during the search. [The Washington Post]

Another plaintiff, a minor identified as "J.E.," said that the officers lined boys and girls up on opposite sides of the hallway and made them put their hands against the wall, spread their legs, and take their shoes off. A deputy "came up under my privates and then he grabbed my testicles twice," J.E. said. "I wanted to turn around and tell him to stop touching me. I wanted it to be over and I just wanted to call my dad because I knew something wasn't right."

The sheriff said that the pat-downs were legal because school administrators were present. The school did not have the legal standing to challenge the sheriff, and the district cannot join the complaint against the sheriff. No drugs were found in the search.

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"I'm not aware of anything like this ever happening in Georgia," Mark Begnaud, one of the students' lawyers, told The Washington Post. "It's obviously unconstitutional, a textbook definition of police overreach."

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