The case against the Atlantic Community School District involving an alleged strip search of female students will be heard in court next year. Council Bluffs lawyer, Edward Noethe, represents families of two of the girls who were allegedly subjected to a strip search in August of 2009 after another student reported the theft of 100 dollars.
Noethe says the trial will be held at the federal courthouse in Council Bluffs September 19th, 2011. He says the case was originally filed in Cass County and the defendants removed the case to federal court. Noethe says the legal team did not have a preference over whether the case was heard in state or federal court.
Noethe says since there were federal constitutional issues involved, they had the option of trying the case in federal or state court and they don’t care that it has been moved to federal court. It is alleged five girls were ordered to submit to a search during a gym class on August 21st. The girl who reported the theft, and counselor Heather Turpin allegedly stood and watched as the girls removed their clothing, and in one-case, took off all their clothing in an effort to find the missing money. The missing money was never found.
A lawsuit was filed last May against former Atlantic High School Athletic Director Paul Croghan, Turpin, and the Atlantic School District. Croghan resigned from his position in November. Attorney Noethe, says while Turpin is no longer named as a defendant in the case, due to unrelated circumstances, she will likely serve as a witness in the proceedings.
Noethe says the case boils down to a violation of the students’ 14th Amendment rights, Iowa’s Student Searches Act, and the students’ privacy. Plaintiffs in the suit include Matthew Jacobsen, Lisa Ferguson, and Lee Lank. The lawsuit reportedly seeks punitive damages from Croghan, and the Atlantic school District, sufficient to punish and discourage similar conduct in the future. On a related note, in February, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a companion lawsuit against the Atlantic School District hoping to reveal the punishment the district imposed on Croghan and Turpin for their alleged roles in the incident.
The school however, has refused to release that information. A.C.L.U. Legal Director Randall Wilson said today both sides have filed for summary judgment. Wilson says they filed for summary judgment because there’s no argument over the facts. It’s intended to prompt the judge to determine what the law is and move the case along.
Wilson says the school district wanted more time to prepare for oral arguments. The judge has rescheduled that hearing for 9 a.m. September 27th. Wilson said it’s important to the A.C.L.U. to learn what disciplinary action was taken, because there’s no sanction for the school district for not following the law, and they want to make sure the matters are being handled appropriately.
By Ric Hanson KJAN Atlantic