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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Lawsuit filed over student backpack search



Sumter County school officials violated the constitutional rights of an eighth-grader when they tried to search her backpack after a classmate claimed to be carrying a bomb on a school bus, says a lawsuit just filed by the ACLU in federal court.

Jessica Sorensen, a student at Sumter Middle School northeast of Tampa, was suspended for two days last fall after refusing to be searched. According to the ACLU, authorities attempted to search every student’s backpack after the classmate’s claim, even though they determined the classmate did not have a bomb and had no reason to suspect Jessica had anything illegal or dangerous.

“The retaliatory and disciplinary acts taken by Defendants against Ms. Sorensen violated Ms. Sorensen’s freedom from unreasonable searches guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments,” says the suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. “The unjustifiable two day suspension cast a pall on Ms. Sorensen’s otherwise excellent academic record.”

Jessica’s mom appealed the suspension but was denied, the suit says. The suit asks the court to order that Jessica’s suspension be redacted or expunged.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:20am]


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