Over the past few years, the U.S. has seen far too many reports of racial profiling. And now, an incident in Binghamton, New York has left many wondering if racial discrimination was at play. A middle school in the city has come under fire after four 12-year-old black girls were allegedly subjected to a strip search. According to the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin, a local organization called Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow claims that the four East Middle School students were strip-searched over suspicion that they were on drugs after they were observed acting “hyper and giddy during their lunch hour.”
Almost 200 members of the community attended a January 22nd school board meeting to discuss the allegations. The Press & Sun Bulletin reports that at the meeting, the Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow distributed a statement about the incident.
In a Facebook post about the incident, the group claimed that three students had been forced to remove their shirts, and one was asked to pull down her pants. The fourth student, according to the group, received in-school suspension when she refused to remove her clothes. The group shared the post with the hashtag #BelieveBlackGirlsBCSD.
Broome-Tioga NAACP President Mica Barreiro also spoke during the meeting, demanding that the board stop strip searching as a course of action and also fire the school’s principal and assistant principal, as well as the nurse who allegedly administered the strip search. He also requested that the board apologize to the girls and their families and permit the students to be educated elsewhere until the situation is resolved.
But in a January 24th statement to local CBS/ABC affiliate WENY-TV, the Binghamton City School District denied that the students were strip-searched.
“When students exhibit behavior that warrants further evaluation the district has an obligation to ensure their health and well-being, which may include physical and medical examination,” 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.”
The board also noted that in some cases, medical evaluation “may require the removal of bulky outside clothing to expose an arm” so that students’ vitals can be checked. The statement concluded by asserting that school officials had followed this policy and that the students in question were not punished after the incident.
Strip searching minors is absolutely unacceptable, and if these four girls really were subjected to it, we hope that those responsible will face consequences. We’ll be watching to see how this story unfolds.