Perspectives: A ‘touching’ story of public safety; what if it was your kids?

Composite images include pat-down by Stockbyte / Getty images, St. George News

OPINION – How far would you go to keep your kids safe? Most parents, at some level, are perfectly willing to die to protect their children from harm.

There’s nothing sinister or misguided about this conviction that a parent would be willing to give his or her all for the sake of their own child.

Let me rephrase my original question in a slightly different way: How far would you let a stranger go, to keep your child safe?

Obviously, context is going to play a key role in how a parent would answer that question. If the stranger was pulling your child from a burning vehicle, few of us would see anything wrong with that.

If anything, we’d get a tearful case of the warm fuzzies that a stranger cared enough about our loved one to rescue them. But is there a limit to what would inspire our gratitude?

For instance, what if that stranger was aggressively patting down your child’s body in an attempt to find illicit substances that could be harmful? Would we still have warm fuzzies?

What if this pat-down was taking place in a public school setting and the stranger touching your child was wearing a state-issued costume and working in concert with other similarly dressed strangers to pat down the entire student body?

Would your eyes be wet with tears of gratitude or glowing red with anger?

At what point would the harm that’s supposedly being prevented be overshadowed by the harm of what is actually being done?

As much as I’d like to pretend that this is simply a hypothetical exercise, my questions are based upon an actual incident that took place last month in Georgia.

According to WALB-TV, deputies in Worth County conducted a pat-down search of 900 high school students there last month. Yes, all 900 students were physically patted down by law enforcement officers in search of drugs.

When Sheriff Jeff Hobby was questioned about his remarkable departure from probable cause, he claimed that as long as a school administrator was present, he had legal authority to personally search the kids.

Interestingly, school officials are carefully distancing themselves from the sheriff. They admit to being present for the searches but deny giving the sheriff authorization. Lawerence Walters, who is the interim superintendent of Worth County schools, categorically stated, “Under no circumstances did we approve touching any students.”

Two facts stand out in this story:

1. This was the second time in a month that a drug search had been done. The first search was conducted by a different law enforcement agency after a few students who were busted for a string of robberies claimed there was drug activity at the school.

2. No drugs were found in either search. As the TV station reported, Sheriff Hobby didn’t feel like the first search was thorough enough so he thought he’d do one himself.

A person would have to have a serious disconnect with reality, as well as a hankering for the flavor of boot polish to try to square these searches with properly functioning government.

Even the heel clickers who get a contact high from their encounters with authority should have trouble defending this kind of overreach with a straight face.

Yet, there they are. In Facebook commentary on the local news sites, you’ll find numerous people posting variations of “my kid didn’t feel violated,” “what do you have to hide?” and “thank God we have a sheriff who will do what it takes to keep our kids safe.”

Their lust to be ruled over has blinded them to what’s at stake.

There was no due process. There was no search warrant that specified a particular individual for whom probable cause existed to justify an aggressive physical search. It was a blanket search that violated everyone’s privacy and found no drugs.

Claiming to have received permission from a school official does not confer sweeping powers upon law enforcement to ignore crucial limits on state power.

These kids might as well be wearing orange jumpsuits as their school clothes. They are being subjected to precisely the kind of treatment that prisoners might expect.

As a parent, this is the kind of thing that would make me want to unleash the most relentless, ponytailed civil rights lawyer in town on all involved. Of course, the individuals responsible would simply hand any settlement bill to the taxpayers.

It’s disturbing that not a single school administrator or member of law enforcement balked at the prospect of these deputies getting to third base with these students without any evidence whatsoever. Do they believe that their role is to play along with the system no matter what?

How much of this type of abuse would you be willing to suffer before speaking out?

Incidents like this tend to become the new normal until we find the courage to question the rules we are living under.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • comments May 8, 2017 at 9:04 am

    OK, I didn’t hear about this incident. I’m gonna ask the question that’s “politically incorrect”… Is this a majority black (african-american) school?

  • ladybugavenger May 8, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Don’t touch my child! That’s my stance on this. We teach our kids stranger danger and don’t let people touch you inappropriately. And then comes this pat down at school, undoing the teachings of stranger danger. There needs to be probable cause or a warrant to search. The search was illegal and violated 900 students constitutional rights. Now what? The school authorities were standing right there letting it happen and now say they didn’t authorize it. What does a parent do now?

    If I search my child and their things, it’s not illegal. But if a law enforcement officer does it without a warrant, it’s illegal. No one is safe.

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