A civil rights group is suing police for allegedly groping teenagers' private parts during a search for drugs that found nothing.
According to the students’ legal complaint, approximately 40 uniformed officers from five law enforcement agencies arrived at Worth County High School in the US state of Georgia, whereupon they indiscriminately searched some 900 students for drug possession.
No illegal substances or drug paraphernalia were found.
Nine students, who are unnamed for legal reasons, gave first-hand accounts of intrusive searches.
In a statement about the incident, the Worth County sheriff's office admitted at least one deputy had touched students inappropriately.
“After the pat down was conducted it was discovered that one of the deputies had exceeded the instructions given by the Sheriff and conducted a pat down of some students that was more intrusive than instructed by the Sheriff.
“Upon discovery of the deputy's actions, the Sheriff has taken corrective action to insure that this behaviour will not occur again.”
It is not clear how the officer in question had been inappropriate, nor how he was disciplined.
A sixteen-year-old claimant referred to only as 'K A' wrote she was ordered to line up along the wall where Deputy Whiddon, one of the defendants named, "kicked her legs to open them wider".
The deputy proceeded to pull the front of her bra away from her body, and look down the back and front of her dress.
"Whiddon slid her hands from one of K A's ankles up to her pelvic area. Whiddon's hands stopped on and cupped K A's vaginal area and buttocks", the suit reads.
Other deputies allegedly "touched and manipulated students’' breasts and genitals.
Children claimed that they also pulled up young girls' bras and exposed their bare breasts, as well as touch their underwear by "placing hands inside the waistbands of their pants or reaching up their dresses."
Female police officers searched the young girls, and male officers searched the young boys.
According to the complaint, the sheriff had no warrant.
The lawyer for the school district said that the sheriff’s office had informed school officials that 13 students were suspected of possessing drugs, The Washington Post reports.
Only three of those 13 students were in school and it is unclear why he decided to go ahead and search hundreds of students.
He said probably won't attempt to search students again, because of the community response.
Initially speaking to WALB 10 News, Mr Hobby said that the school administrator was present for all the searches, and based on that they were legal.
He had ordered the search after the Sylvester Police Department conducted its own weeks before - and found no drugs.
The sheriff's office has 60 days to formally respond to the lawsuit.Reuse content