Parent claims child was strip searched

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) - Mother and son are speaking out about what they call an invasion of privacy.

The allegations are being made against Hopewell High School. Tonight, the school's principal says yes there was a search but no one was asked to remove clothing.

When a wallet turned up missing in the boy's locker room at Hopewell High on Tuesday - 17 year old Kevin McGowan and another student were pointed out as the last two seen near the item. Kevin says he and the other student were taken into a classroom by three faculty members where a search unfolded.

"He made me pull out my two front pockets and then one of the teachers went into my back pocket. He was like do you have on undershorts -- I said yeah. He was like alright, pull your pants down and check your shorts," said Kevin.

Kevin's mother is outraged. She says the school should have called her first.

"They shouldn't have done that because he's a child. You can't do that to other people's children," said parent Consuelo Hodges.

The principal of the school says they don't condone or conduct strip searches. And in Kevin's case proper protocol was followed.

"We asked them to empty their pockets and we asked them to take their shoes off and pull up their pant leg," said Hopewell High School Principal Neal Fletcher.

NBC 12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin says school administrators are allowed, under the law, to question and search students without parental consent. But, there are limits:

"The search that actually occurs must be reasonable in relation to the age and sex of the student and nature of the offense being investigated," Benjamin said.

Principal Fletcher says he's disheartened by the accusation. As for that missing wallet, it was not found on Kevin or that other student who was searched.

"I feel like they stripped me of my dignity," Kevin said.

Our legal analyst also says that when a school administrator seeks to search a student, the law does not require the same degree of probable cause that you must have in a non school setting.

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