Georgia TV station WALB is reporting that this month, deputies in Worth County conducted a drug dog sweep followed by personal searches of students at Worth County High School. According to WALB, all 900 students were patted down. Some students characterized the pat-downs as “aggressive.”
Worth Co. Sheriff Jeff Hobby declined to go on camera, but talked about the search in a telephone interview.
The sheriff requested drug-sniffing dogs from the state, and the Crisp County Sheriff sent K-9 units.
When asked about the pat down of students, and the notion of probable cause, Hobby said that as long as a school administrator was present, the personal search of the children was legal.
But school administrators aren’t exactly backing the sheriff up, stating that while they were present, they didn’t authorize the searches, and suggesting that they, too, found them excessive.
Tommy Coleman, attorney for the Worth County School Board, responded to Hobby’s statement.
Coleman clarified that those conducting the search would need particular circumstances or facts to justify it …
Interim Worth County Superintendent Lawrence Walters said he understands parents concerns about the drug search at Worth County High school on Friday.
“I’ve never been involved with anything like that ever in the past 21 years and I don’t condone it,” said Walters.
Walters said in March Sheriff Jeff Hobby told him his department was going to do a drug search at the school after spring break.
“We did not give permission but they didn’t as for permission, he just said, the sheriff, that he was going to do it after spring break,” said Walters.
Walters assumed the search would be similar to ones he had seen in his 40 plus years in education.
From his experiences, the way Friday’s search was done unusual.
“Under no circumstances did we approve touching any students,” explained Walters.
Incredibly, this is the second time in a month that this has happened. The Sylvester Police Department conducted a similar search last month after a few students picked up for a string of robberies suggested there was drug activity at the school. That search turned up nothing. As WALB puts it, Hobby didn’t think that search was thorough enough, so he conducted one of his own.
Hobby’s search didn’t turn up any illicit drugs either, which suggests these cops aren’t just ignorant of the Constitution, they’re also not particularly good at their jobs. They not only made national news by conducting an illegal search based on information that turned out to be badly wrong, they also managed to search an entire high school, subject themselves to a likely lawsuit … and not find any illegal substances.
In 2003, police in Goose Creek, S.C., conducted a similar sweep at Stratford High School. In 2006, the school and police department agreed to a settlement that paid out $6,000 to $12,000 per student searched. That search was of 150 students. Worth County had better hope its insurance is paid up.