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Park View pat-down draws angry response

SoVaNow.com / April 21, 2010
Three angry mothers complained to the Mecklenburg County School Board on Monday about the way a search for a missing cell phone was conducted at Park View High School.

They asked the board to investigate the search, which they what they described as pat-down of their 15-year sons by women.

Principal Ben Taylor said yesterday that the search conducted by assistant principals Pauline Keeton and Michelle Powell was perfectly legal.

“I trust them implicitly,” he said.

He said the two administrators searched every child in the “Ag” class following a call from the teacher. The administrators had the children empty their pockets and then, using the backs of their hands, patted their pants pockets, Taylor said.

“I think you have to be careful when you use the term pat-down,” he said.

Taylor defined a pat-down search as one in which the palm of the hand touches a person, including the underarm and groin areas.

He said the phone was found later that day in the duct work of a piece of equipment.

Parent Sara Furr told the board her son was patted down and she didn’t receive a call until after the fact. She asked the board to investigate.

“I think we deserve an apology,” she said.

“What happened was inexcusable,” she said. “It crosses a line — I don’t know how to deal with it. This is a public school, not a reform school.”

Christy Pierce said her son, too, was patted down.

“I talked with several students. They all said they [the assistant principals] used the palm of their hands.”

She questioned whether the principal’s law is above the civil law.

“I sent my child to school to get an education, not to be treated like a criminal,” she said. “If this happens again, there will be a lawsuit.”

Penny Watson-Brockwell, said she works in a prison, where a pat-down is routine, but does not expect that kind of search to be conducted at a school.

“I do not understand my 15-year-old son having a 60-year-old woman put her hands all over his person,” she said.

Taylor said that prior to the teacher calling for assistance with a search, the teacher had asked the students to look for the missing phone and had asked them if they knew where it was.

He said he has met with two parents concerning the incident and is scheduled to meet with a third.

He said searches are conducted when there is a reason to do so.

“There was no imminent danger,” he said. “But we have money and other items taken and stole. Parents want those things returned. That’s the other side of the coin. …Did you look for it/ Why didn’t you?”

Contacted by phone yesterday, Taylor said a search with drug dogs had just been completed at the school.

Contraband was found, he said.

“We want to make sure our kids our safe. We have the best SOL scores in the region at Park View and at Bluestone as well. One of the reasons is our kids are safe. Our kids believe they are safe.”

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