Strip Search Of 10-Year-Old Prompts Complaint Against Elementary School

CBS | December 14, 2012

Clinton, N.C. (CBS CHARLOTTE) – The parents of a 10-year old Union elementary school student have filed a complaint against the school for strip-searching their son to find an allegedly stolen $20 bill.

In a complaint filed against assistant principal Teresa Holmes on Dec. 6, the family of Clinton, N.C., fifth-grader Justin Cox allege their son was ordered to remove his socks, shoes, pants and shirt so the principal could conduct a manual search for a $20 bill that was inevitably found in the cafeteria.

Holmes defended her actions saying that several other students and a few other faculty members told her the money was missing and they had seen the fifth-grader dive below the table for it. The court filing states that Holmes told the boy “he left her no choice and that she had to search him,” when the boy pulled out his pockets and didn’t produce the allegedly stolen money.

She then told the boy that she was “within her legal rights to do so.”

The court documents state that Justin went under his lunch table to retrieve money dropped by a passing female student. After returning the found money to the girl, Holmes – who was in the cafeteria during the commotion – was told that there was still $20 missing and Justin told her he did not have it.

When Justin was ordered to her office with a custodian witness, Holmes allegedly put her fingers inside the waistband of his undershorts, and ran her fingers on his bare torso.

She told the 10-year old that she had the authority to search him “because teachers and other students thought Justin had the money.”

However, another teacher came into the office at the same time and said that the money had “miraculously” been found on the floor of the cafeteria.

Holmes defended her actions after the fact, telling WRAL-TV, “Any staff member who has ever worked with me knows that I care for my students and that even when I have to discipline them, I love them.”

Holmes hugged the boy and apologized, but Justin’s mother says this is not enough.

“I was furious,” said Clarinda Cox, Justin’s mother.

“If I felt he needed to be searched, I would have brought him into the bathroom,” she said Monday.

“You could have had a witness in the bathroom with me. I would have searched my son.”

Cox told WRAL that, with or without an apology, her son was violated.

“She came up to him and rubbed her fingers around inside of his underwear,” Cox said. “If that isn’t excessively intrusive, I don’t know what is.”

The December court complaint against Holmes states that Justin was deprived of his constitutional rights barring unreasonable search and seizure.