Four female middle school students were allegedly strip-searched at East Middle School on Jan. 15 for suspicion of possessing drugs, prompting protests and outcry from Binghamton community members and organizations.
According to a Facebook post by Progressive Leaders Of Tomorrow (PLOT), the 12-year-old black students were suspected of possessing drugs on school grounds and were subsequently questioned and strip-searched by the school nurse and an assistant principal, Michelle Raleigh. The parents were not contacted about the incident, according to the post.
In response to the post, the Binghamton City School District released a statement on Jan. 24. According to the statement, no strip search occurred and the school officials acted according to the board policy. The statement said school officials conducted medical evaluations that required the students to remove bulky clothing.
“When students exhibit behavior that warrants further evaluation, the district has an obligation to ensure their health and wellbeing, which may include physical and medical evaluation,” the statement read. “The administrators who work in the middle school every day are trained to monitor and evaluate students and recognize behavior that is out of character.”
However, the parents of the four 12-year-olds maintain that their daughters were strip-searched at the middle school. According to a statement released by the parents of the four girls on Jan. 25, three of the students complied to drug tests and a strip search while one student refused to remove her clothing, which caused her to be sent to in-school suspension.
“All four girls missed several days of instruction after this experience, as they no longer feel safe at East Middle,” the statement read. “During this time, school officials failed to communicate with us in any meaningful way and often failed to return our calls. It wasn’t until the community attended the school board meeting that the administration began to express an interest in helping us transition the girls back into school.”
PLOT, a grassroots organization founded in 2014, focuses on issues of race, class, gender and state violence while aiming to empower and liberate marginalized members of society, is planning to hold a rally at East Middle School on Jan. 29 in support of the four students. The group is also demanding that East Middle School Principal Tim Simonds, Assistant Principal Michelle Raleigh and the nurse involved in the strip searches be removed from their positions, and that the school issue a public apology to the students and their families.