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KC Schools Confirm Strip Searches

March 29, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The teachers who strip-searched third-grade students looking for $5 in missing lunch money face dismissal, schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor said.

According to parents, at least two teachers at Pitcher Elementary searched 23 students on March 18. The money was eventually found, though not through the searches. The district confirmed the searches on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Taylor said he would take ``the most severe disciplinary consequences available″ against the teachers, a phrase district officials said referred to termination.

Principal Jana Schwimmer and teachers Betty Bettis and Thomas L. Sims were suspended with pay last week pending an investigation. District officials have said Schwimmer, who had previously announced plans to resign this summer, did not know about the searches until after they occurred.

School district spokesman Edwin Birch said the three staff members remain suspended, but that state law prohibited him from talking about any other disciplinary action they face.

Fred Wickham, attorney for Bettis and Sims, said Thursday that he could not comment because he had not spoken to his clients since the district issued its statement.

Bettis, Sims and Schwimmer could not be reached for comment.

Parents have said a female third-grade teacher started the search after other efforts to find the money failed. She reportedly took the girls to a restroom, then had them pair up in stalls, where they were told to check each other’s underwear.

The boys went to the gymnasium with a male physical education teacher, who took them one at a time into a locker room where each was told to strip down and shake his underwear, parents said.

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