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Middle Schoolers Forced To Unfasten Their Bras In School Strip Search, Parents Say

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The parents of a 13-year-old and 15-year-old girl say their daughters were strip-searched by school officials who accused them of having drugs. Chris Pringle and Anita Wilson-Pringle say that their 13-year-old daughter, who is a student at Serrano Middle School in Highland, was strip-searched on April 7 by school officials who suspected her of having marijuana, KTLA reports. Wilson-Pringle says her daughter as well as another 15-year-old girl were taken from class and to Vice Principal Shenita Stevenson's office by Stevenson and a male employee, possibly a security guard, according to the San Bernardino Sun. Wilson-Pringle wrote in a blog post that Stevenson searched the girls "but not just your standard pat-down, which is by all means legal, but they were told to take off clothing." Wilson-Pringle says her daughter was told to take off her jacket, shirt and T-shirt, then unhook her bra and pull her bra away from her body. The girls were then required to shake their breasts, then remove and shake out their pants.

Officials found two bottles—one empty and one containing about a quarter of a gram of marijuana—in Wilson-Pringle's daughter's bag. The girl says the bottles do not belong to her. Wilson-Pringle also questions the findings, saying her daughter's bag had been left unsupervised for about 40 minutes in between when the two girls were taken to the office and when the girl was able to call her mother. She also claims that they've had issues with Stevenson in the past and that she will now be home schooling her daughter. She's also contemplating legal action against the school.

Wendy Alvarado, the mother of the other girl, told KTLA that a man patted her daughter down, and that her daughter is "devastated" and "very emotional."

The parents of the girls say their daughters were both arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession. Wilson-Pringle said her daughter was given a ticket as well as a court date. Wilson-Pringle claims these types of searches are surprisingly common at Serrano Middle School, and she believes the race of the two girls may have been a factor: her daughter is black and the other girl is Hispanic. She wrote:

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According to the two girls, this goes on quite often at Serrano Middle School, and VP Stevenson is almost always present. The funny thing is, it never happens to the White students. It is as if these kinds of searches only take place with the Black kids (mostly girls) and Hispanics (mostly girls). This is kind of ironic, because when you look at this you will take note that Mrs. Stevenson, the Vice Principal of Serrano Middle school is a Black woman. So why does it seem as if only the Blacks and Hispanics are being targeted? To be sure, some of the readers of this article will say that the race card is being played once again. It seems that way because that IS that way. When talking with various other students, it was noted they had all been searched in this manner and all were Black and Hispanic.

Linda Bardere, a spokesperson for the San Bernardino School District, confirmed to the San Bernardino Sun that the district is looking into the search. She said in an emailed statement that the district's "number one priority is to keep students safe and create an environment that is free from weapons and drugs. We adhere to our board policy and (California Education Code) when a search is conducted. We take all parent concerns and complaints seriously, however due to student confidentiality we can’t comment further."

The policy, according to Badere is that all searches "shall be limited in scope and designed to produce evidence related to the alleged violation," and take into account "the intrusiveness of the search in light of the student's age, gender, and the nature of the alleged violation."