In DH v. Clayton County School District, Defendant McDowell appealed the district court’s finding that as assistant principal his strip search of a minor student was a violation of clearly established constitutional law. McDowell, an assistant Principal at a public school in Georgia, conducted a strip search of a 12-year old 7th grader in an office, based upon reports and his individualized suspicion that DH possessed marijuana at school DH. Prior to the search McDowell discovered marijuana in the backpack of another student who said that DH his classmate also had marijuana. In response to D.V.’s implication of DH, McDowell searched DH, starting with his backpack. When no marijuana was found, he had DH remove his clothes down to his underpants. When nothing was found in his clothes McDowell instructed him to remove his underpants exposing his genitals to McDowell. Another officer was present along with the other student suspects. No marijuana was found.
McDowell raised the defense of qualified Immunity. First the court considers whether McDowell’s search deprived DH of a constitutional right. The second determination was whether the law was clearly established so as to justify imposition of §1983 liability. In determining whether a search of a student violates the Fourth amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure the court made a two-prong inquiry. First, it asks whether the search is justified at its inception and there are reasonable grounds for suspect in that the search will turn up evidence of a violation of law or school rules, and second, whether the scope of the search is reasonably related to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place.