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Police Apologize for Strip Search

January 31, 1998

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (AP) _ Told by a policewoman to strip off her panties or have it done for her, 13-year-old Kayla Plumeau had one thought: ``I wanted to call my mom.″

No way, she was told. No one in her Duniway Middle School gym class could call home or leave until the two women officers searched them to makes sure stolen CDs, makeup and money hadn’t been hidden in their bras and underpants.

Kayla said she had little choice but to take off her pants and shirt.

``I was told if I didn’t take them off, they would do a full body search,″ she said. ``If I didn’t pull them off, they said they’d do it for me.″

The officers found nothing stolen, but Thursday’s episode has indignant parents threatening to go to court over what they contend was an improper strip search of as many as 30 teen-age girls.

``They take it for granted that just because they are kids, they don’t have rights,″ said Connie Brown, a parent who is organizing a picket against the school Monday.

Police Chief Rod Brown has hand-delivered apologies to the parents of the seventh- and eighth-graders, writing that the conduct of the officers during the two-hour search was beyond ``what was necessary.″

``We believe the manner in which the search was conducted may have been inappropriate,″ Brown wrote. ``Officials taking the action were acting in best interest of kids involved as well as school as a whole, but their judgment may have been rash.″

Brown insisted the students were asked only to loosen their clothing and lower their pants to their hips.

Several girls told a much different story.

``It was a strip search,″ said Sarah Gadberry, 14. ``I had to take off my pants and shirt.″

The girls said the search took place during gym class after several students in the locker room complained that jewelry, makeup, CDs and about $30 had been stolen. The gym teacher asked the guilty party to come forward.

When no one spoke up, the school called the police.

The girls were called into the locker room two at a time. Some were asked to lift their shirts, some had to shake their bras and others were asked to lower their pants and panties to their ankles. Several girls who were menstruating refused to drop their panties and were told if they didn’t they would be subject to a full cavity search.

Officers found some of the stolen items Friday afternoon on the floor of a girls’ bathroom. Parents contend anyone had access to the lockers.

The issue has angered many parents in this city of 18,000, about 40 miles southwest of Portland.

``This is not going to stop here,″ said Barbara Paulson, who kept her 12-year-old daughter, Amanda, home from school Friday and plans to file complaints against police, the school, the gym teacher and the principal.

Superintendent Elaine Taylor said the McMinnville School District was conducting its own investigation. ``We are extremely sorry about the entire search incident,″ she said.

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