On April 14, 40 officers showed up at Georgia’s Worth County High School unannounced, according to the lawsuit. The school was put on lockdown for hours and students were ordered into the hallway, where they were told to stand, spread-eagled.
Officers then proceeded to reach inside the bras of female students, touch their bare breasts and pat their buttocks. They cupped the genitals of male students and searched inside students’ underwear. No drugs were found.
Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby told a CNN affiliate that since school administrators were present during the searches, officers did not need warrants or permission from the school district or parents.
Hobby decided to conduct the search because the March arrests of some students for burglary caused suspicion that drugs were being bought and sold at the school.
Following backlash and criticism from parents and the community, the sheriff said he would likely not conduct a similar search again.
"The whole community is upset about this. Our children were violated and we’re banding together," said Amaryllis Coleman, a parent who claims that during the search and officer reached below her daughter’s pantyline.
Worth County School Board attorney Tommy Coleman pointed that although law enforcement had a target list of 13 students, only three were present at school the day of the search.
"The egregious thing that happened was he didn’t search just those individuals but he searched every single student at the school … There was aggressive searches and touching of undergarments and breast and genitalia by deputies."
"It’s been a matter of great public concern," the attorney added.
The students who were searched said that male officers searched male students and female officers searched female students.
The suit describes a search. "Sheriff Hobby entered K.A.’s classroom and ordered the students to line up in the hallway with their hands on the wall," it reads.
"Deputy Whiddon took one of K.A.’s arms, placed it higher up on the wall, and kicked her legs to open them wider. Whiddon pulled the front of K.A.’s bra away from her body by the underwire and flipped it up," it continues.
"Whiddon also looked down the back and front of K.A.’s dress. Whiddon slid her hands from one of K.A.’s ankles up to her pelvic area. Whiddon’s hands went underneath K.A.’s dress as Whiddon felt up K.A.’s leg. Whiddon’s hands stopped on and cupped K.A.’s vaginal area and buttocks. Whiddon then slid her hands down to the other ankle. Whiddon was wearing gloves, but did not change them before or after her search of K.A."
The lawsuit is being brought by the Southern Center for Human Rights and names Sheriff Hobby and 25 officers as defendants.