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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Teacher Says School Strip Searched Her

NORFOLK, Va. (CN) - Virginia Beach school administrators ordered a school nurse to strip search a teacher "down to her undergarments" because one of her students had scabies, the outraged teacher claims in court.

Donika Anderson Wagner sued the Virginia Beach School Board, Bayside High School principal James Miller, assistant principal Bermina Nickerson, school nurse Alpana Dave and the chairwoman of the School Health Advisory Board, Mary Shaw, in Federal Court. She alleges assault and battery, false imprisonment and civil rights violations.

Wagner says the parent of the child infested with scabies - a skin condition caused by mites and spread by direct contact - reported the child's condition to Bayside officials.

Anderson says Shaw instructed Miller and Nickerson to interrupt her class and escort her to the school nurse's office.

"Nickerson escorted Ms. Anderson to the school nurse present that day, Alpanna Dave," the complaint states. "While Nickerson waited immediately outside the door, Nurse Dave conducted a search and visual inspection of plaintiff's body, involving - with Nurse Dave's assistance - the removal of Ms. Anderson's clothes, down to her undergarments."

The complaint adds: "The strip search revealed nothing - no indications of scabies or anything else unusual."

Anderson, who says she returned to her class to continue teaching though very upset, says the search violated her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to bodily privacy.

"Because a parent or guardian of the student made an unsupported allegation, with no rational connection to the plaintiff, the defendants responded with an intrusive search," she says in the lawsuit. "The search was unjustified at its inception, and the nature of the search as conducted - removing Ms. Anderson's clothes to inspect her body for mites - was not reasonable to the perceived or alleged problem in its scope, and unsupported by any objective facts."

Anderson, who says she suffers from severe mental anguish and embarrassment from the search, seeks $622,000 in damages.

She is represented by Robert Haddad with Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock of Virginia Beach.

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