An elementary school in Clinton, North Carolina says an assistant principal was within her legal rights when she stripped a 10-year-old boy down to his underwear because he had been accused of stealing $20.
Clarinda Cox told WRAL that her son, Justin, was forced to take off everything but his underwear and undershirt earlier this month after several students said he had stolen $20 from another student.
Justin insisted that he had picked up the money and given it back to the girl after she dropped it. The girl later said someone had stolen the money and several students pointed to Justin.
The boy recalled that Union Elementary School Assistant Principal Teresa Holmes took him into a bathroom and ordered him to take off his clothes.
“She didn’t ask me if she could, she told me, ‘Now I have to strip search you,’” Justin said.
“She came up to him and rubbed her fingers around inside of his underwear,” Clarinda Cox explained. “If that isn’t excessively intrusive, I don’t know what is.”
Sampson County Schools spokesperson Susan Warren told WRAL that Holmes had not violated any rules because a male janitor was present for the search.
“The assistant principal was within her legal authority, her legal right, to do the search,” Warren insisted. “She may have been overzealous in her actions.”
But that didn’t matter to Clarinda Cox, who said she was “furious” about the search and because no one notified her.
“If I felt he needed to be searched, I would have brought him into the bathroom,” she said. “You could have had a witness in the bathroom with me. I would have searched my son.”
School officials admitted that the money later appeared under a lunchroom table. Holmes said that after the strip-search, she hugged Justin and apologized for what she felt she had to do.
Watch this video from WRAL, broadcast June 18, 2012.