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Private School Says Strip Search Is OK

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CN) - Officials at the Milton Hershey School strip-searched a student in the mistaken belief she had a cell phone, then told her mother that the girl "does not have constitutional rights because she is in a private school," the girl and her mom claim in court.

The mother, Trina Howze, and her daughter sued the Milton Hershey School, its Student Home Affiliate Michael Randolph, and C.W.'s student home supervisors Kenneth Wilson and Tysha Wilson, in Federal Court.

Milton Hershey School is a "cost-free, private, coeducational home and school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students from the families of low income, limited resources and social need operating in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," according to the complaint.

Howze's daughter, C.W., had lived at and attended the Milton Hershey School for nearly four years when she was strip searched at the school in June 2013, according to the complaint. The Wilsons and Randolph suspected she had a smartphone, "which was prohibited contraband within the Wilsons' student home," the complaint states.

Howze says her daughter was ordered to go to the school's student health center, where the nurse, identified as "Joanne," told C.W. to remove her shirt and then "touched C.W. all over her body - including her chest - feeling for a smartphone."

"After the strip search, C.W., feeling violated, was visibly upset, crying and shaken," and she called her mother, the complaint states.

Howze says the strip search was wrongfully performed out of her presence and without her consent.

Howze says she called Tysha Wilson to ask about what happened, and Wilson "advised Howze that C.W. does not have constitutional rights because she is in a private school and that the school is backed up by the Derry County Police Department; and 'it is what it is, Ms. Howze.'"

Howze seeks damages for violations of civil rights and due process, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, assault and battery.

She is represented by Matthew Weisberg.

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