11:26 PM
Springfield City Councilman Doug Burlison

A lawsuit was filed today (09-27-10) in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri by Springfield City Councilman Doug Burlison against Springfield Public Schools and the Greene County Sheriff's Department. 

Burlison alleges that students rights were violated during a lock down April 22 at Central High School.

In court papers, Burlison, his wife Mellony, his stepson and stepdaughter, who are both students at Central High School, allege that students were ordered out of their third period classrooms and told to leave all their belongings behind.

Court documents say that while the kids were out of the classrooms, cops and drug dogs rifled through their belongings.

Named in the lawsuit are Springfield Public Schools, Superintendent Dr. Norm Ridder, Central High School Principal Ron Snodgrass and Greene County Sheriff James Arnott.

The Turner Report offers a glimpse at those documents:

On or about Thursday April 22, 2010, C.M., (Burlison's stepson) then a freshman at Central High School, was in his third period classroom when an announcement was made over the school’s public address system by Defendant Snodgrass.

Defendant Snodgrass (principal) announced that the school was going into “lockdown” and that students may not leave their classrooms.

About fifteen minutes after Defendant Snodgrass’s announcement, deputies of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, with their dogs, entered C.M.’s classroom. The deputies ordered students and teachers to leave the room. Students were told not to take any possessions or effects, such as backpacks, notebooks and purses, with them but to leave them in the classroom.

After approximately ten minutes, the law enforcement officers left the classroom and C.M. and his classmates returned to the room.

The condition of the effects C.M. observed when he reentered the classroom made it clear to him that the students’ effects had been searched by the law enforcement officials. Backpacks and other student belongings had been moved around, zippers had been unzipped and saliva on the effects indicated that the dogs had come in contact with the students’ belongings and effects.

In particular, C.M. observed that although all the zippers on his backpack were shut when he left the room, when he returned the zippers on his backpack were open and items within the backpack had been moved. At least three other students in his third period class also pointed out that their effects, i.e., purses and backpacks, had been moved and the students observed signs indicating that police had rummaged through their belongings.

Burlison's stepdaughter, who arrived during the search, was not allowed to enter the building until fourth hour, according to the lawsuit.

Burlison's lawsuit comes after he addressed his concerns at a school board meeting where board members did not respond.  His lawsuit says school officials and the sheriff violated students Fourth Amendment right against illegal search and seizure, and Missouri state statutes (this case will probably come down to whether the search was justified.)

Ridder has said that the search was/is standard procedure at Central and other SPS schools.

Springfield attorney Jason Umbarger is representing the Burlisons.


Branson Missouri said...

Interesting story on the lawsuit against the Springfield School District.

I'd be surprised if the court ruled in favor of civil liberty for students.

TC said...

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say someone is money hungry. The family suing the Springfield School District needs to be thankful that they have law enforcement readily available. I doubt they would put the school on "lockdown" just so the dogs could slobber on the kids' backpacks. I hope it's doesn't go far in the proceedings and waste tax payers money.

Clay Boggess said...

This sort of activity serves as a deterrent to anyone who might consider concealing illegal drugs, or potentially more life-threatening, a weapon. If my students were attending this school, I would be thankful that someone was stepping up to protect everyone’s best interest, regardless of a little slobber and inconvenience.