CAMDEN, N.J. (CN) — A New Jersey federal judge refused to let a male cop off the hook for allowing the strip search of a female high schooler despite a metal detector showing she had no weapon.
When Glennekqua Hayward was taken from her last class of the day on Sept. 26, 2013, by Salem City High School's security guard to meet with Vice Principal Jonathan Price, he told her someone reported that she had a knife on her.
Though Hayward denied the accusation, Price waved a metal-detector wand over her from her shoulders to her feet for about 6 seconds, she testified.
Despite no beep, another school employee, Alfreda McCoy-Cuff, had Hayward lift up her shirt — with her back to Price and Salem Police Officer John Sieber — for a strip search, court records show.
Cuff then lifted Hayward's bra, exposing her breasts and nipples, to feel underneath and behind it, touching the lower part of her breast, according to Hayward's testimony.
Yet Cuff later testified that she did not have special training in searching for contraband.
Hayward says the search took about 40 to 45 seconds, and Price found no weapons inside her backpack and jacket.
The next day, the principal and superintendent put Price on administrative leave after Hayward complained about the search.
Hayward, in turn, stopped attending the school, claiming she suffers from "emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, fear, anxiety, anger and concern" from the search.
She sued Salem, Sieber, and several other since-dismissed defendants in Newark Federal Court, claiming the officer knew, or should have known, that the search was unconstitutional.
Salem and Sieber moved for summary judgment, but Chief U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle partially denied the motion Monday.
Sieber may have violated Hayward's Fourth and 14th Amendment rights by failing to intervene to stop the search, according to the 38-page ruling.
"Cuff testified that she did not change the tone or volume of her voice and that Mr. Price's office was small enough that everyone there was 'in a position to hear what was going on,'" Simandle wrote. "Mr. Price also testified that his office was 'very small,' only 10 by 12 feet. A reasonable view of the facts may demonstrate that Officer Sieber, who was one of four persons in a small office room, was aware of the physical search, despite his contrary assertions."
The judge didn't buy Sieber's claim that he didn't know a strip search was going on.
"The record shows instead that the search occurred in Mr. Price's office under circumstances entirely within defendants' control, that defendants lacked sufficient information to believe that exigent circumstances existed because the likelihood of finding a knife on plaintiff's person was low once Mr. Price's metal detector did not ping when he 'wanded' plaintiff, and that Officer Sieber actually may have been aware that an unlawful strip search was occurring, in violation of [state law]," Simandle wrote. "These factual disputes preclude the entry of summary judgment on plaintiff's state-created danger claim."
The court also refused to award summary judgment on negligence claims.
But it sided with Sieber on Hayward's invasion of privacy claim, finding that he only searched her shoes.
The court also awarded summary judgment to Salem on Section 1983 claims, as well as those for punitive damages, neglect, emotional distress, and conspiracy.
The defendants' attorneys with Gebhardt & Kiefer in Clinton, N.J., and Hayward's Haddonfield, N.J.-based attorney, Robert Agre, did not return requests for comment Tuesday.
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