On Tuesday concerned community members in Binghamton, New York, gathered at a school district meeting to discuss a troubling matter after news surfaced that four 12-year-old Black female students at a neighboring middle school, accused school officials of a strip search.
According to the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, nearly 200 people were on hand seeking answers to a difficult matter that intersected with presumption of guilt, gender and race which occurred at Eastern Middle School.
During the meeting school officials denied an earlier report from BuzzFeed News where the students said they questioned and searched by a school nurse and an assistant principal who accused them of drug possession.
According Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow (PLOT), an advocacy group who posted the matter to Facebook, the girls were questioned because they appeared to be “giddy and hyper” during lunch.
“The children had their clothing removed and felt shamed, humiliated, and traumatized by [the] experience,” the group wrote on Facebook. “While they were being searched the nurse made disparaging comments about the eczema of one girl and the size of another’s breasts.”
“They, as well as their parents, believe the heinous and excessive actions implemented by the school were racially motivated,” the statement continued.
Parents of the students raised concerns with the school and questioned why they were never contacted prior to the alleged search, but school officials maintain they did not conduct a strip search, nor violate the students rights.
According to a statement submitted to BuzzFeed by a school district spokesperson, officials were within policy and determined a need for the search.
“When conducting medical evaluation, it may require the removal of bulky outside clothing to expose an arm so that vitals like blood pressure and pulse can be assessed,” the statement read. “This is not the same as a strip search.”
“No students were strip-searched, nor were they punished as a result of the incident in question, and they were allowed to return to class after being evaluated,” the statement continued.
But at the district meeting on Tuesday, community members demanded answers, especially concerning the notion that students were searched because they appeared to be hyper, common attributes of children in that age range.
Supporters of the girls also inquired whether or not the involved school officials had been reprimanded to which they were told it remained a”personnel matter.”
As we know Black girls are thought to be less innocent than their peers and often face harsher punishments in school than their white and non-white peers.
The matter of the strip search is troubling and requires further investigation on behalf of everyone involved in order to right this wrong. Members of PLOT are planning a rally on January 29 to continue the fight.