Two Lincoln Junior High School assistant principals violated D.C. public schools' regulations and exercised "poor judgment" during a search of 11 Lincoln students last Friday, a school spokeswoman said.
The findings came in a preliminary investigation, which is to be completed today, that was triggered by several students' complaints that the assistant principals ordered them to undress so they could search for $20 in stolen money, said schools spokeswoman Janice Cromer.
Cromer said that "whether or not much of their clothes came off," as some of the students have said, "our policy was violated."
School officials said they have not yet determined whether the students' claims are true, but they have concluded, based on statements given by the two assistant principals, that the administrators did not comply with strict guidelines pertaining to searching students for illegal, dangerous or stolen materials.
Specifically, Cromer said, the assistant principals, Donald A. Wills and Emma I. Bonner, acknowledged that they did not have written approval to conduct the search, indiscriminately searched most of the students in the class and asked the students to take their shoes off -- all violations of the rules.
According to a superintendent's directive, which is more restrictive than a recent Supreme Court decision giving schools the right to conduct "reasonable" searches of students, administrators must have written approval for a search, a valid reason to suspect a student and must not engage in " 'fishing expeditions' by randomly conducting searches without good reason."
The directive states that "students have the right to be secure in their persons, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures."
Cromer said: "What's in question now is whether the students disrobed. Both Wills and Bonner have said shoes were removed. However, whether or not much of their clothes came off, our policy was violated. Until we have all the facts collected from all the parties involved, we won't make a distinction as to what the punishment -- if any -- will be."
Several students interviewed Wednesday near the school at 16th and Irving streets NW, alleged that the "strip search" occurred in an eighth-grade science class after a student reported that $20 was missing from her purse.
The students said that Wills and Bonner ordered them to pull down their pants and expose parts of their bodies where money could have been hidden. The money was not recovered, they said.
"There is a discrepancy between what [Wills and Bonner] and the students are saying," Cromer said.