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Sheriff's Office To Pay $3 Million For Invasive Searches Of 850 High School Students

Published: November 21, 2017
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Source: Tech Dirt

It's been barely a month since news came to us of the Worth County (GA) Sheriff's Department's search of an entire school's worth of high school students. Over 800 students were searched without a warrant, subjected to invasive pat downs that included breasts and genitals by Sheriff Jeff Hobby and his deputies.

Sheriff Hobby thought there might be drugs in the school, but despite the search of hundreds of students and the use of drug dogs, no drugs were found. A class action lawsuit [PDF] alleging multiple rights violations brought by some of the students was filed in June. In October, Sheriff Hobby and two of his deputies were indicted for sexual battery and false imprisonment.

In a surprisingly quick turnaround, there's already talk of a settlement, as Susan Hogan reports for the Washington Post.

On Tuesday, a legal advocacy group, the Southern Center for Human Rights, said a proposed $3 million settlement had been reached in the lawsuit, pending a judge’s approval.

That number has nothing to do with the severity of the violations, but rather is the limit of the sheriff department's insurance policy. But it will be spread to cover a majority of the student body harmed by the actions of these law enforcement officers.

Each class member will receive a monetary award of between $1,000 and $6,000, with those students subjected to more invasive searches receiving higher amounts. Once any outstanding claims are resolved and attorney fees of 15% of the fund are paid, half of any remaining funds will be paid into a fund for the benefit of Worth County High School students.

This quick settlement can likely be chalked up to a handful of variables. One, Hobby and his deputies have been indicted, which gives more credence to the students' claims their rights were violated. Two, the entire 4-hour lockdown was captured on the school's surveillance cameras, all but eliminating narrative options for the law enforcement defendants. Three, Sheriff Hobby's own statements in defense of his and his deputies' actions make it very clear the sheriff supports the mass violation of rights through policies and actions.

The only reason Hobby didn't pursue another warrantless search of the entire school's student body wasn't because of concerns about students and their rights, but because people were angry.

When asked about that previous search that came up dry, Hobby said he didn't think that search was thorough, so he decided to do his own.

He said he believes there are drugs at the high school and the middle school, but also said that he will not do another search, due to response from community.

So, straight up, the sheriff believes he did nothing wrong. His deputies did nothing wrong. If anything's wrong here, it's the response from the community -- people who apparently don't understand civil rights are nothing more than obstacles that must be skirted or surmounted if we're ever going to win this war on drugs.

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